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Nutrition Resources for School Foodservice

Nutrition Resources for School Foodservice

School Foodservice professionals play a critical role in the planning, preparation, storage and safety of meals to children. The USDA has resources and opportunities for school food service staff to make improvements to create and sustain a healthy school environment.  What tools and resources are available to support healthy meal service:

USDA’s  School Meal Initiative Review for Healthy Children (SMI)  

In 1995, USDA established a final rule which amended the regulations governing the nutrition standards for the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. The rule required that school meals meet certain minimum standards for calories and other nutrients in order to improve the nutritional quality of school lunches and breakfasts. The School Meals Initiative for Healthy Children (SMI) was implemented and to assist schools in meeting requirements of this rule.

SMI nutrition standards require school meals to:

  • Contain less than 30 percent calories from fat and 10 percent calories from saturated fat over the course of a week;
  • Breakfasts must provide at least one-fourth of the daily Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) and lunches must provide one-third RDA for protein, iron, calcium and vitamins A and C.
  • Comply with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans for children over the age of two;
  • Include decreased levels of sodium and cholesterol; and
  • Include increased amounts of dietary fiber.

SMI guidelines also require that menus, recipes, food product descriptions, and production records be maintained to show that adequate food items, or menu items are offered each given day, and that nutrition standards are met for specific age/grade groupings when averaged over each school week (a school week is defined as a minimum of three consecutive days and a maximum of seven consecutive days). Through SMI meals are evaluated on their total nutrient composition, rather than food components.

State nutrition officials conduct SMI audits at least once every three to five years in accordance with the Coordinated Review Effort (CRE). Since the implementation of SMI, schools have taken strides to improve quality of meals served. The number one goal of the school meal program is to ensure the health and well being of the District's children.

Healthy School Act Menu Verification

In 2004, the United States Department of Agriculture established the Healthier US School Challenge (HUSSC) to recognize NSLP-participating schools that have created healthier school environments through promotion of nutrition and physical activity.

As part of the Healthy Schools Act of 2010, all meals served must meet the serving requirements of the USDA’s HUSSC at the Gold Award Level for vegetables, fruits, whole grains, milk, and other foods.  The requirements for DC School lunch menus are as follows:

  • A different vegetable every day of the week
  • Dark green or orange vegetables 3 or more days per week
  • Cooked dry beans or peas (legumes) from the HUSSC approved list once per week
  • A different fruit every day of the week
  • Fresh fruit 2 or more days per week
  • 100% fruit juice only once per week
  •  A whole grain food serving with each lunch meal
  • Only low-fat (1% or less) or fat-free (skim) fluid milk each day.


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