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Food Consumption Outside the Foodservice Area

Nutrition Services Division Management Bulletin

Purpose: Policy, Beneficial Information

To: Child Nutrition Program Sponsors

Attention: Food Program/Service Directors

Number: CNP-05-2015

Date: June 2015; Updated May 2024

Reference: U.S. Department of Agriculture Policy Memoranda SP 41-2014: Clarification of the Policy on Food Consumption Outside the Foodservice Area, and the Whole Grain-Rich Requirement; and SP 13-2015 (v.2), SFSP 05-2015 (v.2): Summer Meal Programs Service Requirements Q&As - Revised

Supersedes: Management Bulletin USDA-SFSP-03-2012

Subject: Food Consumption Outside the Foodservice Area

This management bulletin supersedes California Department of Education (CDE) management bulletin USDA-SFSP-03-2012: Traveling Apple Policy Correction, issued in March 2012. This management bulletin contains updated information for the School Nutrition Programs (SNP) and Summer Food Service Program (SFSP). It also provides guidance to all child nutrition program (CNP) sponsors on food consumption outside of the foodservice area. Because this management bulletin contains both updated policy and policy included in past management bulletins, the Nutrition Services Division (NSD) encourages agency staff to read it in its entirety.

It is not always possible for students to finish all components of their meal within the meal service period. Therefore, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) allows students to take certain food items outside the foodservice area to consume later in the school day. The USDA encourages this practice as a means of reducing food waste and encouraging consumption of healthy meals.

School Nutrition Programs

Meals offered through the SNPs, including the Seamless Summer Option, are intended to be consumed in the meal service area during the established meal service period. However, due to the limited amount of time students may receive to consume their meals, and the increased amount of fruits and vegetables required in reimbursable meals, students may wish to save some food items to eat at a later time.

The USDA allows students to save food items for consumption outside of a meal service area as long as the food items do not require cooling or heating. Examples of acceptable food items to consume later are a whole piece of fruit or a bag of baby carrots.

The CDE encourages schools to use this flexibility to increase student consumption of fruits and vegetables and reduce food waste. This policy is intended to assist with removing constraints that may prevent students from eating their entire meal in the foodservice area, and not for students to take meals home. The CDE continues to encourage schools to allow students a reasonable amount of time to consume their meal during the meal service period.

Schools may also wish to set up sharing tables to minimize food waste. Before implementing sharing tables, schools must be aware of all applicable state and local food safety regulations and ensure that their efforts to save and share food are consistent with all relevant health and safety codes.

For additional information on sharing tables, you can view management bulletin CNP-03-2018 on the CDE The Use of Share Tables web page at

For more information on adequate meal times and providing students with enough time to eat, please visit the CDE Ensuring Adequate Time to Eat Lunch web page at

Summer Food Service Program

The Traveling Apple Policy states that SFSP sponsors may allow children to take one nonperishable fruit, vegetable, or grain component from their meal, or from the sharing table, away from the SFSP meal site for later consumption. This option is available for all SFSP sites without prior CDE approval. Site monitors should use this option only if: (1) they have adequate staffing to ensure that food safety issues do not arise (e.g., children taking perishable foods away for later consumption), and (2) this practice is in compliance with local and state health and safety codes.

Contact Information

If you have any questions regarding this management bulletin, please contact the appropriate NSD specialist for your agency.

School Nutrition Programs

If you have any questions regarding this subject, please contact the SNP Unit by email at

Summer Food Service Program

If you have any questions regarding this subject, please contact the Summer Meals Unit by email at

Questions:   Nutrition Services Division | 800-952-5609
Last Reviewed: Thursday, May 23, 2024
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