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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

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

In a May 2014 letter sent to each state agency, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services, Kevin Concannon, wrote that the USDA recognizes it is not always possible for students to finish all components of their meal within the meal service period. Therefore, the 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 Feeding Option (SSFO), 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 MB 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.

SSFO sponsors should follow the SNP guidelines for food consumption outside of the foodservice area.

Child and Adult Care Food Program

CACFP at-risk afterschool agencies allow children to take one vegetable, fruit, or grain item off-site to eat at a later time. The food item a child takes off-site must be from the child’s own meal or snack, or left on a share table by another child. Although CACFP at-risk afterschool institutions do not need prior state agency approval, they must ensure that allowing food items to be taken off-site is in compliance with local and state health and safety codes. For further information, review MB CACFP-10-2017 on the CDE NSD web page located at (The preceding link is no longer valid.)

For more information regarding sharing tables, review MB CNP-03-2018 Share Tables for all CNPs on the CDE NSD web page located at

Contact Information

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

School Nutrition Programs

If you have any questions regarding this subject, please contact Lori Porter, Child Nutrition Consultant, Southern School Nutrition Programs Unit (SNPU), by phone at 916-322-1454 or by email at, or Mia Bertacchi, Child Nutrition Assistant, Northern SNPU, by phone at 916-445-1261 or by email at (The preceding information is no longer valid)

Child and Adult Care Food Program

If you have any questions regarding this subject, please contact your county's Child and Adult Care Food Program Unit (CACFP) Specialist. The CACFP Contact Specialist list is available in the Download Forms section of the CNIPS, Form ID CACFP 01. You can also contact the Community Nutrition Programs Administration Office Technician, by phone at 916-324-6153 or by email at, (The preceding information is no longer valid) to be directed to your CACFP specialist.

Summer Food Service Program

If you have any questions regarding this subject, please contact the Summer Meals Unit, by phone at 916-324-6153 or (The preceding information is no longer valid) by email at

Questions:   Nutrition Services Division | 800-952-5609
Last Reviewed: Wednesday, April 3, 2024
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