Meal Patterns for Grades K-12 in School Nutrition Programs

Documents/Forms


Meal Pattern Changes for School Year 2020-21

On August 21, 2020, the USDA released information about a decision in April 2020 by the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland that vacates (cancels) the USDA’s 2018 final rule, Child Nutrition Programs: Flexibilities for Milk, Whole Grains, and Sodium Requirements (83 FR 63775). This eliminates the previously approved meal pattern flexibilities, and reverts back to the 2012 NSLP and SBP meal patterns for grades K-12. Therefore, for school year 2020-21 (July 1, 2020, through June 30, 2021), flavored milk must be fat-free; all grains must be whole-grain rich (WGR); and school lunches and breakfasts must meet sodium target 2, as defined in 7 CFR 210.10(c) and 220.8(c). These are the meal pattern requirements that were in effect with the 2012 meal patterns, prior to final rule 83 FR 63775. For more information, see question 7 in USDA Memo SP 24-2020, CACFP 13-2020 and SFSP 13-2020: Questions and Answers for the Child Nutrition Programs during School Year 2020-21 – #5.


Meal Pattern Waiver Option

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the USDA’s COVID–19: Child Nutrition Response #36, Nationwide Waiver to Allow Meal Pattern Flexibility in the Child Nutrition Programs – Extension #4 waives the requirements to serve meals that meet the meal patterns during school year 2020-21. The USDA is allowing school food authorities (SFAs) to use this meal pattern flexibility if they cannot meet the 2012 meal pattern requirements (i.e., flavored milk must be fat-free; all grains must be WGR; and meals must meet sodium target 2). SFAs must apply to the CSDE to implement this waiver. The CSDE waiver application is available in the “How To” section of the CSDE’s Operating Child Nutrition Programs during COVID-19 Outbreaks webpage.


Meal Patterns for Grades K-12 for School Year 2020-21
(July 1, 2020, through June 30, 2021)

Lunch Meal Patterns (K-5, 6-8, and 9-12)  |   Lunch Meal Pattern for K-8 Option
Breakfast Meal Patterns (K-5, 6-8, and 9-12)  |   Breakfast Meal Patterns for Multiple Grades
Dietary Specifications  |   RCCI Exemption


The lunch and breakfast meal patterns for grades K-12 use a food-based menu planning approach and include three required grade groups (K-5, 6-8, and 9-12). The meal patterns require daily and weekly amounts of five food components for lunch (milk, fruits, vegetables, grains, and meat/meat alternates) and three food components for breakfast (milk, fruits, and grains). In addition to the required food components, the average weekly nutrition content of all lunches for each grade group, and separately for all breakfasts for each grade group, must meet the USDA's dietary specifications (nutrition standards). On a weekly average, the lunch meal patterns are designed to provide about one-third, and the breakfast meal patterns are designed to provide about one-fourth, of children’s total daily calories and other key nutrients.

The lunch and breakfast meal patterns are based on a five-day week. When a school week regularly operates on a shorter or longer cycle, menu planners must increase or decrease the weekly requirements by 20 percent for each day that deviates from the standard five-day week. The links below include lunch and breakfast meal patterns for four-day, five-day, and seven-day weeks.


2020-21 Lunch Meal Patterns for Standard Grade Groups (K-5, 6-8, and 9-12)
NSLP Meal Patterns Waiver NSLP Meal Patterns
These meal patterns apply to all SFAs, except those that have received approval from the CSDE for a meal pattern flexibility waiver. These meal patterns apply only to SFAs that have submitted and received CSDE approval for a meal pattern flexibility waiver.
 4-day Lunch All Grades  Waiver Meal Pattern: 4-day Lunch All Grades 
 4-day Lunch Grades K-5  Waiver Meal Pattern: 4-day Lunch Grades K-5 
 4-day Lunch Grades 6-8  Waiver Meal Pattern: 4-day Lunch Grades 6-8 
 4-day Lunch Grades 9-12  Waiver Meal Pattern: 4-day Lunch Grades 9-12 
 5-day Lunch All Grades  Waiver Meal Pattern: 5-day Lunch All Grades 
 5-day Lunch Grades K-5  Waiver Meal Pattern: 5-day Lunch Grades K-5 
 5-day Lunch Grades 6-8  Waiver Meal Pattern: 5-day Lunch Grades 6-8 
 5-day Lunch Grades 9-12  Waiver Meal Pattern: 5-day Lunch Grades 9-12 
 7-day Lunch All Grades  Waiver Meal Pattern: 7-day Lunch All Grades 
 7-day Lunch Grades K-5  Waiver Meal Pattern: 7-day Lunch Grades K-5 
 7-day Lunch Grades 6-8  Waiver Meal Pattern: 7-day Lunch Grades 6-8 
 7-day Lunch Grades 9-12  Waiver Meal Pattern: 7-day Lunch Grades 9-12 


2020-21 Lunch Meal Patterns for Grades K-8 Option
The grades K-8 meal pattern option is for schools with grade configurations that prevent students from being separated into the required grade groups for K-5 and 6-8. This meal pattern requires a narrower calorie range and more restrictive sodium limit. The 2020-21 NSLP meal patterns apply unless the SFA has a CSDE-approved meal pattern flexibility waiver. 
NSLP Meal Patterns Waiver NSLP Meal Patterns
These meal patterns apply to all SFAs, except those that have received approval from the CSDE for a meal pattern flexibility waiver. These meal patterns apply only to SFAs that have submitted and received CSDE approval for a meal pattern flexibility waiver.
4-day Lunch Grades K-8 Option  Waiver Meal Pattern: 4-day Lunch Grades K-8 Option
 5-day Lunch Grades K-8 Option  Waiver Meal Pattern: 5-day Lunch Grades K-8 Option 
 7-day Lunch Grades K-8 Option  Waiver Meal Pattern: 7-day Lunch Grades K-8 Option


2020-21 Breakfast Meal Patterns for Standard Grade Groups (K-5, 6-8, and 9-12)
SBP Meal Patterns   Waiver SBP Meal Patterns
These meal patterns apply to all SFAs, except for SFAs that have received approval from the CSDE for meal pattern flexibility waiver. 
These meal patterns apply only to SFAs that have submitted and received CSDE approval for a meal pattern flexibility waiver.
 4-day Breakfast All Grades  Waiver Meal Pattern: 4-day Breakfast All Grades 
 4-day Breakfast Grades K-5  Waiver Meal Pattern: 4-day Breakfast Grades K-5 
 4-day Breakfast Grades 6-8  Waiver Meal Pattern: 4-day Breakfast Grades 6-8
 4-day Breakfast Grades 9-12  Waiver Meal Pattern: 4-day Breakfast Grades 9-12
 5-day Breakfast All Grades  Waiver Meal Pattern: 5-day Breakfast All Grades
 5-day Breakfast Grades K-5  Waiver Meal Pattern: 5-day Breakfast Grades K-5 
 5-day Breakfast Grades 6-8  Waiver Meal Pattern: 5-day Breakfast Grades 6-8
 5-day Breakfast Grades 9-12  Waiver Meal Pattern: 5-day Breakfast Grades 9-12
 7-day Breakfast All Grades  Waiver Meal Pattern: 5-day Breakfast All Grades
 7-day Breakfast Grades K-5  Waiver Meal Pattern: 7-day Breakfast Grades K-5 
 7-day Breakfast Grades 6-8  Waiver Meal Pattern: 7-day Breakfast Grades 6-8
 7-day Breakfast Grades 9-12  Waiver Meal Pattern: 7-day Breakfast Grades 9-12


2020-21 Breakfast Meal Patterns for Multiple Grade Groups
These meal pattern options are for schools with grade configurations that prevent students from being separated into the three required grade groups (K-5, 6-8, and 9-12). These meal pattern options require a narrower calorie range and more restrictive sodium limit. The 2020-21 meal patterns apply unless the SFA has a CSDE-approved meal pattern flexibility waiver. 
SBP Meal Patterns   Waiver SBP Meal Patterns
These meal patterns apply to all SFAs, except those that have received approval from the CSDE for a meal pattern flexibility waiver.  These meal patterns apply only to SFAs that have submitted and received CSDE approval for a meal pattern flexibility waiver.
 4-day Breakfast Grades K-8 Option  Waiver Meal Pattern: 4-day Breakfast Grades K-8 Option
 4-day Breakfast Grades K-12 Option  Waiver Meal Pattern: 4-day Breakfast Grades K-12 Option
 4-day Breakfast Grades 6-12 Option  Waiver Meal Pattern: 4-day Breakfast Grades 6-12 Option
 5-day Breakfast Grades K-8 Option  Waiver Meal Pattern: 5-day Breakfast Grades K-8 Option
 5-day Breakfast Grades K-12 Option  Waiver Meal Pattern: 5-day Breakfast Grades K-12 Option
 5-day Breakfast Grades 6-12 Option  Waiver Meal Pattern: 5-day Breakfast Grades 6-12 Option
 7-day Breakfast Grades K-8 Option  Waiver Meal Pattern: 7-day Breakfast Grades K-8 Option
 7-day Breakfast Grades K-12 Option  Waiver Meal Pattern: 7-day Breakfast Grades K-12 Option
 7-day Breakfast Grades 6-12 Option  Waiver Meal Pattern: 7-day Breakfast Grades 6-12 Option

Dietary Specifications (Nutrition Standards for School Meals)

School meals must meet weekly dietary specifications for calories (minimum and maximum levels), saturated fats, and sodium. In addition, all food products and ingredients used to prepare school meals must contain zero grams of trans fats per serving, as indicated by the Nutrition Facts label or manufacturer’s specifications. The dietary specifications for each meal and grade group are indicated at the bottom of the meal patterns. For detailed guidance on the dietary specifications, review section 6 of the CSDE's Menu Planning Guide for Schools Meals for Grades K-12.

For more resources on the dietary specifications, review the sections for "Limiting Added Sugars," "Limiting Fat," and "Limiting Sodium" in the CSDE's Resource List for Menu Planning and Food Production in Child Nutrition Programs.


Meal Pattern Exemption for RCCIs with Multiple Age Groups

The USDA allows RCCIs that meet certain criteria to serve one meal pattern even when the ages/grades being served span more than one age/grade group. This exemption is allowed when the RCCI meets one of the two conditions below:

  1. The RCCI meets the following three criteria:
    • is a juvenile detention or correctional facility;
    • consists of more than one age/grade group; and
    • has legitimate safety concerns or state juvenile justice laws or regulations related to offering meals with varying amounts of food within the same meal period.
  2. The RCCI is NOT a juvenile detention or correctional facility but can demonstrate operational limitations to separating age/grade groups and can show legitimate safety concerns if students are served meals with different portion sizes.

Eligible RCCIs must submit a written waiver request to the Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE) using the CSDE's Meal Pattern Exception Request Form. For more information, review the CSDE memos below.