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New Meal Pattern Requirements: A Quick Look

In the spring of 2012, the USDA announced the new meal pattern requirements for the National School Lunch and Breakfast programs.  This is a brief description of the major changes and requirements.  For additional information, please visit and

When they take effect: July 1, 2012 was the official start date.  Requirements must be in place by the start of the 2012-2013 school year.

Age/Grade Groups:  Menu offerings must now be broken into 3 age/grade groups.  These groups are grades K-5, 6-8 and 9-12.

Calorie and serving requirements for age/grade groups are as follows:


Calories- 550-650/day

Grains- 8-9 servings/weekStatic Clings for Front of the Line Foodservice from Learning ZoneXpress

Meat/Meat Alternate-8-10 oz. equivalents/week

Milk- 1 cup/day

Fruits- ½ cup/day

Vegetables- ¾ cup/day


Calories- 600-700/day

Grains- 8-10 servings/week

Meat/Meat Alternate- 9-10 oz. equivalent/week

Milk- 1 cup/day

Fruits- ½ cup/dayFront of the Line Bulletin Board Kit Resource for School Lunch

Vegetables- ¾ cup/day


Calories- 750-850/day

Grains- 10-12 servings/week

Meat/Meat Alternate- 10-12 oz. equivalent/week

Milk- 1 cup/day

Fruits- 1 cup/day

Vegetables- 1 cup/day

Sodium: The sodium-reduction plan will begin to be implemented in the year 2013-2014

Fats: Saturated fat must account for no more than 10% of the weekly calorie totals.  Trans fats must be completely eliminated except when naturally occurring (such as in beef and dairy products made with whole milk).

Posting Requirements:  All food and food components must be clearly labeled or listed at or near the beginning of the serving line and before the point of service.

Serving Line Requirements: Each serving line must meet daily and weekly requirements (including subgroups).

What makes a complete meal:  Students must choose 3 of the 5 meal components offered (fruit, vegetable, milk, protein, grain) to make a complete meal.  Additionally, at least one of those choices has to be a fruit or vegetable.

Reimbursement: As of October 1, 2012, schools that are certified as meeting the new meal pattern requirements will be eligible to receive an additional $0.06 per qualifying meal that is served if they submit the proper documentation.

Summary of New Requirements for 2012-2013:

Requirements for Lunch

Fruit offered daily

Vegetable subgroups offered weekly (dark green, starchy, beans and peas, red and orange, other)

Half of all grains must be whole grain-rich

Weekly grain ranges must be offered

Meat and meat alternatives ranges must be offered weekly

Calorie ranges must be met over a week

Zero grams of trans fat should be in each portion

Food Based Menu Planning approach

Under Offer vs. Serve, meals must contain a fruit or vegetable in a ½ cup min. serving

Weighted nutrient analysis on 1 week of menus must be conducted


Requirements for Lunch & Breakfast

Milk must be fat-free or low-fat only

Saturated fat limits must be in place


Additional changes will be phased in over the next three school years.

Source: “We Can Do This: Advice and Resources for Meeting the New Meal Pattern”


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