Meal Patterns for Grades K-12 in School Nutrition Programs


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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). Effective July 1, 2024, the USDA final rule, Child Nutrition Programs: Meal Patterns Consistent With the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, implements additional changes to the NSLP and SBP meal patterns (refer to "Upcoming Meal Pattern Changes" below).

The breakfast and lunch meal patterns 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 three meal components for breakfast (milk, fruits, and grains/meats/meat alternates) and five meal components for lunch (milk, fruits, vegetables, grains, and meats/meat alternates).

In addition to the required meal 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 calorie ranges (minimum and maximum levels) and limits for saturated fats (less than 10 percent of calories) and sodium.  

For detailed information on the meal pattern requirements for the NSLP, SBP, and SSO, refer to the CSDE's Menu Planning Guide for Grades K-12 in the NSLP and SBP. For information on the meal pattern requirements for the Afterschool Snack Program (ASP) 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) have different requirements. The preschool meal patterns follow the same requirements as the CACFP and are available on the CSDE's Meal Patterns for Preschoolers in School Nutrition Programs webpage.


Upcoming Meal Pattern Changes

On April 25, 2024, the USDA published the final rule, Child Nutrition Programs: Meal Patterns Consistent With the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (89 FR 31962). This rulemaking finalizes long-term school nutrition requirements based on the goals of the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, robust stakeholder input, and lessons learned from prior rulemakings. Notably, this rulemaking:  

  • gradually phases in limits for added sugars for the NSLP, SBP, and CACFP;
  • updates the limit for sugars in breakfast cereals and yogurt from total sugars to added sugars;
  • implements a single sodium reduction in the NSLP and SBP, and commits to studying the potential associations between sodium reduction and student participation in the NSLP and SBP;
  • addresses a variety of other school meal requirements, including establishing long-term milk and whole grain requirements; and 
  • includes provisions that strengthen the Buy American requirements. 

While this rulemaking takes effect school year 2024-25, the USDA is gradually phasing in the required changes over time. Program operators are not required to make any changes to their menus as a result of this rulemaking until school year 2025-26 at the earliest.