Breakfast & Lunch

School meals are an important part of a student’s day. Not only are breakfast and lunch an opportunity to promote good nutrition, but they are also the times of day when kids fuel up to learn.

A well-run school nutrition program will give your students the healthy meals they need for their school day and align with the requirements for the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. 


5 Steps to Breakfast and Lunch Success


Step 1: Understand the USDA Meal Patterns 

Do you know what standards to follow to comply with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs? Learn the regulations that govern these programs with our online curriculum, Child Nutrition- Nourishing Minds and Bodies. Understanding these standards is a first critical step. 

Take a look at your district’s local wellness policy. What does it say about participation in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs? Does your state or district wellness policy have additional standards in place that require your programs to go above and beyond national standards? Or, if your district’s wellness policy could use an update, check out the Alliance’s Model Wellness Policy, which was approved by the USDA to use as a template. 


Step 2: Connect with Your State Agency 

Your state agency is the go-to organization for child nutrition programs. They oversee the school meal program on behalf of the USDA and can provide training and technical assistance in the implementation of these programs in your school or district.

Find your school meal program contact at your state agency and connect if you haven’t already. 


Step 3: Check Out Our Tools 

Use our tools to align the food and beverages you serve with national standards: 

Smart Food Planner 

Plan healthy menus, find new recipes, learn new ideas and more with this interactive tool.  

Smart Snacks Product Calculator 

Use the Smart Snacks Product Calculator to take away the guesswork. This is the only tool verified by the USDA as accurate for assessing compliance with the Smart Snacks in School nutrition standards. 


Step 4: Engage Kids 

It’s important to engage students (your customers!) in the decision-making process about the types of foods and beverages they will see in the cafeteria, the quality of their customer experience and nutrition education activities that will be offered. Gaining input and approval from students will put you on a path to offering healthy, tasty meal options that keep youth lining up. 

Use these resources to get started: 


Step 5: Seek Support 

The Healthier Generation Training Center is full of resources available to review or watch on your own time, at your own pace. Here are a few to get you started. 


Next Step:

Once you’ve aligned the foods and beverages you offer during breakfast and lunch with state and national standards, it's time to review your snack, supper, and summer offerings.