Meal Patterns for Grades K-12 in School Nutrition Programs

Overview

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) meal patterns for grades K-12 in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), School Breakfast Program (SBP), and Seamless Summer Option (SSO) of the NSLP are legislated by the USDA final rule, Nutrition Standards in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Program, as required by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (HHFKA). The breakfast and lunch meal patterns use a food-based menu planning approach and include three grade groups (K-5, 6-8, and 9-12). They require daily and weekly amounts of three food components for breakfast (milk, fruits, and grains) and five food components for lunch (milk, fruits, vegetables, grains, and meat/meat alternates).

In addition to the required food components, the average weekly nutrition content of all lunches for each grade group and all breakfasts for each grade group must meet the USDA's dietary specifications (nutrition standards). The dietary specifications address calories (minimum and maximum levels), saturated fats (less than 10 percent of calories), and sodium; and require that all Nutrition Facts labels and manufacturer specifications must indicate zero grams of trans fats per serving for all food products and ingredients used to prepare school meals. Through June 30, 2024, schools must continue to meet the first sodium target, which took effect on July 1, 2014 (see Sodium Reduction Timeline).

For detailed information on the meal pattern requirements for the NSLP, SBP, and SSO, review the CSDE's Menu Planning Guide for School Meals for Grades K-12. For information on the meal pattern requirements for the Afterschool Snack Program meal pattern, visit the Afterschool Snack Program webpage.

Go to the Documents/Forms section in the left navigation bar to access the lunch and breakfast meal patterns for grades K-12.


NOTE: The meal patterns for preschoolers (ages 1-4) are different from the meal patterns for grades K-12. Effective October 1, 2017, the preschool meal patterns were updated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) final rule, Child and Adult Care Food Program: Meal Pattern Revisions Related to the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, and follow the same requirements as the CACFP. For information on the preschool meal patterns, visit the CSDE's Meal Patterns for Preschoolers in School Nutrition Programs webpage.