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School Lunch Meal Pattern Requirements

The School Nutrition Programs School Lunch Meal Pattern Requirements online training.

Course Description

Learn the requirements for serving meals in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). This training provides all the information needed to plan daily and weekly reimbursable school lunch menus. You will also be able to identify valuable resources to help you successfully implement the lunch meal pattern requirements.

  • Course Number: 226
  • Training Length: 45 minutes
  • Certificate: Available at the end of the training
  • Target Audience: Food Service Director and Staff
  • Mandatory: No
  • Cost: Free
  • Date Recorded: October 2019

Online Course

Please note that this training reflects the 2018 final meal pattern rule which codified three menu planning flexibilities for milk, whole grains and sodium in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). However, effective July 1, 2022, Child Nutrition Program Operators are required to follow the Final Rule on Transitional Standards for Milk, Whole Grains, and Sodium as follows:

Whole grain-rich

  • For grades K-12, at least 80 percent of all grains offered weekly in school lunch  must be whole grain-rich. The remaining 20 percent or less of grains, if any, must be enriched. Preschoolers must be offered whole grain-rich foods at least once per day.

Flavored Milk

Program Operators may offer flavored fat-free or low-fat (1 percent) milk as part of the reimbursable meal for children in grades K-12.

Please note that California has stricter rules pertaining to milk under competitive food rules specifically that only 1 percent (unflavored only) or nonfat (flavored or unflavored) is allowed when sold to students on campus.

Sodium Limits

For SY 2022–23 (beginning July 1, 2022) the weekly sodium limit for school lunch will remain at the current level, known as Sodium Target 1.

For SY 2023–24 (beginning July 1, 2023), the sodium limit for school lunch will decrease by 10 percent and will be referred to as Sodium Interim Target 1A.

Sodium limits apply to the average meal offered during the school week. It does not apply daily or per-meal.

Refer to the California Department of Education (CDE) Lunch Meal Pattern (Grades K–12) web page for the most up-do-date information on the meal pattern requirements.

Begin the School Lunch Meal Pattern Requirements course.

Referenced Resources

The following resources are referred to throughout this online course:

Crediting

  • Crediting: 1.0 hours
  • Key Area: Nutrition (1000)
    • Training Topic: Menu Planning (1100)
      • Learning Objective: USDA Nutrition Requirements (1110)

For more information on crediting, access the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) web document Professional Standards Learning Objectives External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF).

Additional Information

For more information about nutrition education training and resources, visit the CDE Healthy Eating and Nutrition Education web page.

General Resources

  • The CDE's NSLP and SBP Meal Patterns web page

  • Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction Weekly Nutrient Calculator External link opens in new window or tab. (XLSX)
    An Excel spreadsheet that is designed to average your weekly dietary specifications offered over the course of a week and it is based on weighted averages. The spreadsheet is similar to the USDA’s Simplified Nutrient Assessment Tool, but is upgraded to work off of your planned menu for your planned quantity. Therefore, you will have a weighted average for the week. This tool does not replace the USDA approved nutrient analysis software. It is only a tool that you can use if you do not have nutrient analysis but want to see where you are at, especially with sodium levels.

  • USDA Nutrient Analysis Protocols: How to Analyze Menus for USDA’s School Meals Programs (NAP Manual) External link opens in new window or tab. provides you processes selecting nutrient analysis software, obtaining nutrient analysis of menus, and guidance calculating nutrient analysis of menus offered in NSLP and SBP.

Contact Us

If you have technical difficulties, please contact the Education and Nutrition Policy Unit by phone at 916-445-9127 for assistance. For questions regarding the course content, email your School Nutrition Program questions to SNPinfo@cde.ca.gov.

Questions:   Education and Nutrition Policy Unit | 800-952-5609
Last Reviewed: Tuesday, July 18, 2023
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