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 those are also the times of day when kids fuel up to learn. And it can become a balancing act as school nutrition professionals balance federal standards with planning delicious meals that student come back every day to enjoy. But a well-running school nutrition program will give your students the healthy meals they need for their school day and align your efforts with the requirements for the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs.

Follow these steps to breakfast and lunch success.

Step 1: Understand the USDA Meal Patterns

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? Is your school required to participate?

If so, do you know what standards to follow to comply with National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs? Does your state or wellness policy have additional standards in place that require your programs to go above and beyond national standards?

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 can provide training and technical assistance and are well-versed in the implementation of these programs in schools and districts like yours.

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


Step 3: Check out the Alliance's Tools

The Alliance has tools you can use align the food and beverages you serve with national standards:

Smart Food Planner
Plan healthy menus, find new recipes, browse compliant products and more with this interactive tool. Create personalized product lists, save favorite recipes and learn new ideas from other school districts.

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 experiences and nutrition education activities that will be offered. Gaining input from students will put you on a path to offering healthy, tasty meal options that keep youth lining up.

Use these resources to help get your started:


Step 5: Seek Support

The Alliance’s Training Center is full of resources to simplify the process for you, all available for you to review or watch on your own time, at your own pace. Here are a few to get you started.

Watch on-demand training videos on a variety of school nutrition topics:

Take a deeper dive with our online curriculum, Child Nutrition- Nourishing Minds and Bodies.

And join the conversation with your peers in our online community, School Nutrition, moderated by Alliance National Nutrition Advisor Carol Chong. 


Once you’ve aligned the foods and beverages you offer at school at lunch and breakfast with state and national standards, you’re ready to take a look at what’s served throughout the rest of the day.

Talk with Our Expert

Carol Chong is one of our National Nutrition Advisors. By contacting her, you can ask questions, learn best practices and get started creating a healthier school environment.

Get to know Carol | Connect with Carol | @nutricook24

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Nutrition Throughout the School Day


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