Crediting Foods in School Nutrition Programs


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Meals served to grades K-12 in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP)Seamless Summer Option (SSO) of the NSLP, Afterschool Snack Program (ASP), and School Breakfast Program (SBP) must comply with the meal patterns, which consist of minimum servings of five meal components (milk, meats/meat alternates, vegetables, fruits, and grains). Milk served in the Special Milk Program (SMP) must comply with the USDA requirements for fluid milk. Foods and beverages served in school menus must meet specific requirements to credit toward each meal component. This webpage contains guidance and resources for meeting these requirements. For more information, refer to the CSDE's Menu Planning Guide for Grades K-12 in the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program

Note: The preschool meal patterns (ages 1-4) have different crediting requirements (refer to the CSDE's Comparison of Meal Pattern Requirements for Preschool and Grades K-12 in the School Nutrition Programs). For information on crediting foods in preschool meals, visit the CSDE's Meal Patterns for Preschoolers in School Nutrition Programs webpage.

General Crediting Guidance  |   Crediting Foods Made From Scratch
Crediting Commercial Processed Products  |   Crediting Guidance for Meal Components

General Crediting Guidance for School Nutrition Programs

Food Buying Guide  |   Meal Patterns and Crediting  |   Portion Control   |    Weights/Measures

Food Buying Guide for Child Nutrition Programs (FBG) 

Meal Patterns and Crediting

Portion Control

Weights and Measures

Crediting Commercial Processed Products

SFAs must obtain appropriate crediting documentation for commercial products. For example, to credit a commercial chicken patty as 2 ounce equivalents of the meat/meat alternates component, the manufacturer’s documentation must indicate that the serving contains 2 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 contribution to the USDA meal patterns. Without this documentation, SFAs cannot credit commercial products toward the USDA meal patterns.

CN Labels  |   Product Formulation Statements  |   Documentation for Processed Foods

Child Nutrition (CN) Labels

Product Formulation Statements

Required Documentation for Processed Foods

Crediting Foods Made from Scratch

To credit foods made from scratch toward the USDA school meal patterns, school food authorities (SFAs) must maintain standardized recipes that document the crediting information per serving. For example, to credit a serving of macaroni and cheese as 2 ounce equivalents of the meat/meat alternates component and 2 ounce equivalents of the grains component, the SFA's standardized recipe must indicate that each serving contains 2 ounces of cheese and 1 cup of whole grain-rich or enriched pasta. 

Standardized Recipes

Crediting Guidance for the Meal Components

For resources on crediting foods for grades K-12 in the school nutrition programs, go to the Documents/Forms section in the left navigation bar.