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Plan Meals

Plan Meals

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.

Meal Patterns

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. View this informational chart to learn more about options to serve meals to preschool and pre-K 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.

Meal Pattern  Requirements: Summer Food Service Program

Documentation & Crediting

Program sponsors must maintain documentation to show how meals meet all program requirements.

Crediting Guides & Calculators

  • Crediting Fruits and Vegetables: English
  • Crediting Grains: English
  • Crediting Meat/Meat Alternates: English
  • Calculate the Components in a Recipe: English
  • Calculate the Grain Component in a Recipe: English
  • Exhibit A: Grain Requirements for Child Nutrition Program EnglishSpanish
  • USDA Food Buying Guide: English


Offering Meats and Meat Alternatives at School Breakfast


Production Records - National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program

Production Records - Summer Food Service Program

Standardized Recipes

  • Standardized Recipe Template: English
  • Standardized Recipe Example: English

Offer Versus Serve

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

Offer Versus Serve (OVS)

Summer Food Service Program

Menu Planning & Recipe Resources

  • The Culinary Institute of Child Nutrition: English
  • The Lunch Box: English
  • Child Nutrition Recipe Box: English

Special Dietary Needs

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: English
  • Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) Template for Special Diets: English
  • Milk Substitution Flowchart: English
  • USDA Non-Dairy Beverage Nutrient Requirements: English
  • Food Allergy Booklet: What Employees Need to Know: English, Spanish