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Plan Meals

Plan Meals

Sponsors of child nutrition programs are required to provide meals that meet the nutritional requirements of children and teens. Explore the resources below for information on the meal requirements for each program and menu planning resources.

Meal Patterns

National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program sponsors must plan menus to meet the meal pattern and dietary specification requirements for the grade groups served.


USDA Meal Pattern Final Rule



School meal sponsors must plan menus to meet the pre-K meal pattern when serving pre-K students meals separately from older students. View this informational chart to learn more about options to serve meals to preschool and pre-K students.

Serving School Meals to Preschoolers


Summer Food Service Program sponsors plan meals that meet the nutritional and energy needs of kids and teens by following the SFSP meal pattern requirements.

View the Meal Pattern Comparison Chart to compare requirements across the child nutrition programs.

Meal Pattern Comparison Chart

Meal Pattern  Requirements: Summer Food Service Program

Documentation & Crediting

Program sponsors must maintain documentation to show how meals meet all program requirements.

Documentation Requirements

Production Records - National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program

Production Records - Summer Food Service Program

Standardized Recipes


Offer Versus Serve

Offer Versus Serve (OVS) allows students to decline some of the food offered in a reimbursable lunch or breakfast meal. OVS helps reduce food waste and allows students to choose the foods they want to eat.

National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program

Offer Versus Serve (OVS)


Summer Food Service Program



Menu Planning & Recipe Resources

Special Dietary Needs

USDA’s non-discrimination regulation and the regulations governing the child nutrition programs mandate that substitutions to the regular meal must be made for children who are unable to eat meals because of their disabilities when that need is certified by a licensed healthcare professional.

Visit the Special Dietary Needs Online Training to learn more about accommodating special dietary needs.