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Sponsors of child nutrition programs are required to provide meals that meet the nutritional requirements of children and teens. Explore the resources below for information on the meal requirements for each program and menu planning resources.
National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program sponsors must plan menus to meet the meal pattern and dietary specification requirements for the grade groups served.
School meal sponsors must plan menus to meet the pre-K meal pattern when serving pre-K students meals separately from older students.
Summer Food Service Program sponsors plan meals that meet the nutritional and energy needs of kids and teens by following the SFSP meal pattern requirements.
View the Meal Pattern Comparison Chart to compare requirements across the child nutrition programs.
Program sponsors must maintain documentation to show how meals meet all program requirements.
Production Records - National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program
Production Records - Summer Food Service Program
Crediting Guides & Calculators
Offer Versus Serve (OVS) allows students to decline some of the food offered in a reimbursable lunch or breakfast meal. OVS helps reduce food waste and allows students to choose the foods they want to eat.
National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program
Summer Food Service Program
USDA’s non-discrimination regulation and the regulations governing the child nutrition programs mandate that substitutions to the regular meal must be made for children who are unable to eat meals because of their disabilities when that need is certified by a licensed healthcare professional.
Visit the Special Dietary Needs Online Training to learn more about accommodating special dietary needs.
Tools/Guidance & Resources
- Accommodating Children with Disabilities in the School Meal Program
- Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) Template for Special Diets
- Special Dietary Needs Documentation Flowchart
- Milk Substitution Flowchart
- Scenario Summary Chart
- USDA Non-Dairy Beverage Nutrient Requirements
- Food Allergy Booklet: What Employees Need to Know in English
- Food Allergy Booklet: What Employees Need to Know in Spanish
- Medical Statement Instructions
- Medical Statement Requirements
- Medical Statement for Meal Modification in English
- Medical Statement for Meal Modification in Spanish
- Dietary Preference Form for Meal Modification in English
- Dietary Preference Form for Meal Modification in Spanish
- Discontinuation Form in English
- Discontinuation Form in Spanish
- Letter to Parents in English
- Letter to Parents in Spanish