Meal Patterns for Grades K-12 in School Nutrition Programs

Overview


School Nutrition Programs | Program Guidance | Forms | Resources | Nutrition Education


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.  

For detailed information on the meal pattern requirements for the NSLP, SBP, and SSO, refer to 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 (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. For additional guidance, refer to "Final Rule: Child Nutrition Programs: Meal Patterns Consistent With the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans" in the Laws/Regulations section of this webpage.