NOTICE: Coronavirus Guidance for School Districts: Per Governor’s executive order, in-school class cancellations remain in effect through the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year.

Emergency Meal Programs: The State Department of Education is authorizing two distinct categories of COVID-19 Emergency Meal Programs in accordance with federal requirements: 1) COVID-19 Emergency Meal Program Limited to Students Attending School in Specific Districts. School districts on this list are only authorized to serve meals to students attending their schools, and any other child age 18 years or younger residing in the same household; 2) COVID-19 Community-wide Emergency Meal Program for Children. Any child age 18 years or younger can receive meal(s) at any meal service and distribution sites in these towns/cities. They do not have to be a resident or attend school in these towns/cities. Check these links often as more locations continue to be added.

Meal Patterns for Preschoolers in School Nutrition Programs

Related Resources

Crediting Foods in Preschool Menus

The crediting guidance below applies to the meal patterns for preschoolers (ages 1-4) in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), School Breakfast Program (SBP), Afterschool Snack Program (ASP) and Seamless Summer Option (SSO) of the NSLP.

General Guidance  |   Crediting Foods Prepared On Site
Crediting Commercial Processed Products  |   Meal Pattern Components for Preschoolers


General Guidance

Crediting Foods Prepared On Site

To credit foods prepared on site toward the USDA meal patterns, school food authorities (SFAs) must maintain standardized recipes that document the crediting information per serving. For example, to credit macaroni and cheese as 1½ ounces of the meat/meat alternates component and ½ ounce equivalent of the grains component for ages 3-4 at lunch, the SFA's recipe must indicate that each serving contains 1½ ounces of cheese and ¼ cup of whole-grain or enriched pasta. 

Crediting Commercial Processed Products

SFAs must obtain appropriate documentation to indicate that commercial products credit toward the USDA meal patterns. For example, to credit commercial chicken nuggets as the meat/meat alternates component at lunch, the manufacturer’s documentation must indicate that one serving of the product contains 1½ ounces of cooked chicken. Allowable documentation includes:

  • the original Child Nutrition (CN) label from the product carton or a photocopy or photograph of the CN label shown attached to the original product carton; or
  • a product formulation statement (PFS) signed by an official of the manufacturer stating the amount of each meal pattern component contained in one serving of the product. 

These are the only acceptable records for documenting a commercial product’s meal pattern contribution. Without this documentation, SFAs cannot credit commercial products in the school nutrition programs.

Meal Pattern Components for Preschoolers

Milk  |   Meat/Meat Alternates  |   Vegetables    Fruits  |   Grains

Milk Component for Preschoolers

Milk must be pasteurized, meet all state and local requirements, and contain vitamins A and D at levels specified by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The preschool meal patterns require unflavored whole milk for age 1; and unflavored low-fat milk or unflavored fat-free milk for ages 2-4. Flavored milk is not allowed for preschoolers. 

All milk served in public schools must also meet the state beverage requirements for milk under Section 10-221q of the Connecticut General Statutes. This includes milk sold as part of reimbursable meals and ASP snacks, and milk sold to preschoolers separately from reimbursable meals. For a list of milk that complies with the federal and state requirements, see list 16 on the CSDE's List of Acceptable Foods and Beverages webpage.

Meat/Meat Alternates Component for Preschoolers

Creditable meat/meat alternates include cooked lean meat, poultry, or fish; cheese; beans and peas (legumes); eggs; nut and seed butters; nuts and seeds; commercial tofu (containing at least 5 grams of protein in 2.2 ounces); yogurt or soy yogurt (containing no more than 3.83 grams of sugar per ounce); and alternate protein products (APPs). Legumes credit as either meat/meat alternates or vegetables, but not both in the same meal. Meat/meat alternates may substitute for the entire grains component at breakfast up to three times per week. The serving size of meat/meat alternates refers to the edible portion of cooked lean meat, poultry, or fish as served, e.g., cooked lean meat without bone, breading, or other ingredients. To credit toward the meat/meat alternates component, a menu item must provide a minimum of ¼ ounce of meat/meat alternates. The rest of the minimum daily serving must be met with additional meat/meat alternates.

Vegetables Component for Preschoolers

Creditable vegetables include fresh, frozen, and canned. A serving of canned vegetables must be drained. Legumes (cooked dry beans and peas) credit as either vegetables or meat/meat alternates, but not both in the same meal. All vegetables credit based on volume except raw leafy greens, which credit as half the volume served, e.g., 1 cup of leafy greens credits as ½ cup of the vegetables component. To credit toward the vegetables component, a menu item must provide a minimum of ⅛ cup of vegetables. The rest of the minimum daily serving must be met with additional vegetables. The USDA’s CACFP Best Practices recommends at least one serving per week of dark green vegetables, red and orange vegetables, beans and peas (legumes), starchy vegetables, and other vegetables. Juice credits as the vegetables or fruits component at only one preschool meal or ASP snack per day. The juice limit includes all fruit and vegetable juice, frozen pops made from 100 percent juice, pureed fruits and vegetables in smoothies, and juice from canned fruit in 100 percent juice.

Fruits Component for Preschoolers

Creditable fruits include fresh, frozen, canned, and dried. Serve canned fruits in light syrup, water, or 100 percent fruit juice. A serving of canned fruit may include the 100 percent juice in which the fruit is packed. All fruits credit based on volume except dried fruit credits as twice the volume served, e.g., ¼ cup of dried fruit counts as ½ cup of the fruits component. To credit toward the fruits component, a menu item must provide a minimum of ⅛ cup of fruit. The rest of the minimum daily serving must be met with additional fruits. Juice credits as the vegetables or fruits component at only one preschool meal or ASP snack per day. The juice limit includes all fruit and vegetable juice, frozen pops made from 100 percent juice, pureed fruits and vegetables in smoothies, and juice from canned fruit in 100 percent juice. Canned fruit in light syrup or water does not count toward the juice limit. The USDA’s CACFP Best Practices recommends serving whole fruits (fresh, canned, dried, and frozen) more often than juice. Vegetables can substitute for the fruits components at any preschool lunch but the two servings must be different vegetables.

Grains Component for Preschoolers

Creditable grains include whole grains, enriched grains, bran, and germ. Cereal grains (e.g., oats, barley, cornmeal, and bulgur) and ready-to-eat (RTE) breakfast cereals and cooked breakfast cereal grains (e.g., oatmeal and cream of wheat) must be whole grain, whole grain-rich (WGR), enriched, or fortified, and cannot contain more than 6 grams of sugar per dry ounce. Except for sweet crackers such as graham crackers and animal crackers, grain-based desserts cannot credit in preschool meals. Examples include cookies, sweet pie crusts, doughnuts, cereal bars, granola bars, sweet rolls, pastries, toaster pastries, cake, and brownies. To credit toward the grains component, a menu item must provide a minimum of ¼ serving of grains. The rest of the minimum daily serving must be met with additional grains.

Preschool menus must include at least one WGR serving per day, between all meals and Afterschool Snack Program snacks served to preschoolers. Foods that qualify as WGR in the preschool meal patterns contain at least 50 percent whole grains and any other grain ingredients are enriched. A grain food meets the preschool WGR criteria if a whole grain is the first ingredient (or second after water), and the next two grain ingredients (if any) are whole grains, enriched grains, bran, or germ. A combination food meets the preschool WGR criteria if the first grain ingredient (or second after water) is a whole grain, and the next two grain ingredients (if any) are whole grains, enriched grains, bran, or germ.