Preschool Meal Pattern Requirements for Schools
Nutrition Services Division Management Bulletin
Purpose: Policy, Beneficial Information
To: Child Nutrition Program Operators
Attention: Child Nutrition Program Operators
Date: January 2019
- Title 7, Code of Federal Regulations, sections 210.10 and 220.8
- USDA Policy Memorandum SP 01-2018 (dated October 19, 2017): Updated Infant and Preschool Meal Pattern in the NSLP and SBP
Supersedes: Management Bulletin SNP-16-2018 Preschool Meal Pattern Requirements for Schools
Subject: Preschool Meal Pattern Requirements in the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program
This management bulletin (MB) supersedes Management Bulletin SNP-16-2018 and provides additional guidance to schools serving meals to preschool children.
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) updated the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP) preschool requirements to align with the revised requirements for the Child and Adult Care Food Program effective October 1, 2017. The preschool meal pattern for the NSLP and SBP is outlined in Title 7, Code of Federal Regulations, sections 210.10 and 220.8, which states that schools serving lunch and breakfast to children ages one through four under the NSLP and SBP must comply with the preschool meal pattern.
Preschool Meal Pattern
While many of the changes to the preschool meal pattern make it more consistent with the requirements for the older grade groups—kindergarten through grade twelve (K–12), some of the meal pattern requirements for preschoolers are different. It is important to be aware of the differences between the preschool meal pattern and the older grade meal patterns when planning meals for children of varying ages.
milk is not allowed for preschool children.
- Juice may not be served more than once per day for preschool children.
- One whole grain-rich serving per day is required for preschool children.
- Grain-based desserts are not allowed for preschool children; however, schools have the flexibility to occasionally serve grain-based desserts for celebrations or other special occasions as an additional food item that is not part of a reimbursable meal.
- Cereal served to preschool children must not contain more than 6 grams (g) of sugar in 1 dry ounce (oz).
- Yogurt served to preschool children must not have more than 23 g of sugar per 6 oz.
- A meat/meat alternate may be substituted for the entire grain component at breakfast no more than three times per week for preschool children.
- Offer versus serve (OVS) is not allowed for preschool children.
Refer to USDA Policy Memorandum SP 01-2018 (dated October 19, 2017): Updated Infant and Preschool Meal Pattern in the NSLP and SBP. Attachment A of the policy memo provides a comparison chart of the requirements between the older grade group and preschool children. You can access the policy memo by visiting the USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) Updated Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) Meal Patterns and Updated NSLP and SBP Infant and Preschool Meal Patterns web page at https://www.fns.usda.gov/cn/guidance-fy19-updated-cacfp-meal-patterns-and-updated-nslp-and-sbp-infant-and-preschool-meal.
You can access the preschool meal pattern on the California Department of Education NSLP and SBP Meal Patterns web page at http://www.cde.ca.gov/ls/nu/he/smi.asp.
Flexibility for Comingled Preschool Meals
It is important to serve age appropriate meals, and the USDA recognized that when schools are serving preschoolers at the same time as older children (comingled), adhering to two different meal patterns may be operationally challenging. As a result, the final rule provides flexibility for schools to use one menu when preschoolers and kindergarten through grade five (K–5) students are in the same service area at the same time. Therefore, schools serving preschool children at the same time in the same service area as K–5 children may use the NSLP and SBP K–5 meal pattern. In general, the service area refers to the place where students pick up or choose their meal items. Keep in mind that schools serving preschool children separately from other age groups, must use the preschool meal pattern.
Refer to USDA Policy Memo SP 37-2017 (dated June 30, 2017): Flexibility for Comingled Preschool Meals: Questions and Answers. This policy memo provides guidance on meals served to preschoolers when they are in the same service area at the same time as K–5 students, and it includes questions and answers. You can access the policy memo by visiting the USDA FNS Updated CACFP Meal Patterns and Updated NSLP and SBP Infant and Preschool Meal Patterns web page at https://www.fns.usda.gov/cn/guidance-fy19-updated-cacfp-meal-patterns-and-updated-nslp-and-sbp-infant-and-preschool-meal.
Transitional kindergarten (TK) programs, as defined in California Education Code (EC) 48000, are not preschool classrooms or child development programs. They are part of the K–12 public school system and are the first year of a two-year kindergarten program, which uses a modified kindergarten curriculum. While preschool-aged children are typically children between the ages of three to five years old, TK serves four-year olds. Therefore, schools serving TK children are not required to use the preschool meal pattern.
Offer Versus Serve and Family Style Meal Service
Because OVS is not considered appropriate and is not allowed when serving meals to preschoolers, schools are encouraged to use family style meal service when possible. Family style meal service allows children to serve themselves from common dishes of food with assistance from supervising adults. When using the family style meal service in the School Meal Programs, preschoolers must take at least ¼ cup of vegetable or fruit. In addition, the supervising adult should initially offer the required minimum serving size of each food component or food item to each student.
Schools that provide meals to preschoolers will continue to be monitored using the School Nutrition Programs administrative review process. As part of the on-site assessment, meal service will be observed along with a review of documentation to determine that meals contain the required components and quantities. The reviewer will also determine if the school is using one menu and comingling the preschoolers in the meal service area. If preschoolers are not comingled (not served in the same service area as K–5 students) then reviewers will complete a validation checklist to ensure that schools are appropriately using the preschool meal pattern.
If you have any questions regarding this MB, please contact the California Department of Education Nutrition Services Division by phone at 800-952-5609 or by email at
HHFKA@cde.ca.gov [Note: The preceding email address is no longer valid. Please email SNPinfo@cde.ca.gov for assistance.]