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Valery Blokhin
Valery Blokhin

School Lunch Food Buying Guide

The Food Buying Guide for Child Nutrition Programs (FBG) is the principal tool with which to determine the contribution that foods make toward meal requirements regardless if foods are produced on site or purchased commercially. The Crediting Handbook is a supplementary resource with additional information on creditable foods in child and adult care centers, outside-school-hours care centers, and family day care homes.

school lunch food buying guide

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The USCP said it worked with the USDA for many months to get sorghum added to the Food Buying Guide. The decision comes just a few weeks after the USDA implemented a new requirement stating that at least 80% of the weekly grains in school lunch and breakfast menus must be whole-grain rich. The USCP said sorghum will help school nutrition professionals meet that requirement as they build out menus for the upcoming school year and beyond.

Lanier Dabruzzi: The inclusion of sorghum in the Food Buying Guide is a monumental win for sorghum. The Food Buying Guide is a critical resource on which foodservice professionals rely to formulate meal plans for school nutrition programs that meet USDA nutrition requirements. The inclusion of whole grain sorghum, pearled sorghum and sorghum flour in this Guide is an important acknowledgement by USDA that sorghum is a nutritious addition to the plates of American schoolchildren as a nutrient-rich, high-protein, gluten-free ancient whole grain.

For example, as of July 1, 2022, USDA has implemented a new requirement stating that at least 80 percent of the weekly grains in school lunch and breakfast menus must be whole-grain rich, which has resulted in school nutrition providers actively seeking foods that satisfy this requirement. As a nutrient-rich ancient whole grain, sorghum will prove to be the solution for school nutrition professionals for the upcoming school year and beyond.

WGC: How do you think kids will react to sorghum in their school lunches? Do you have any tips or kid-friendly recipes for readers interested in incorporating sorghum into meals for their own children?

One less-common ancient grain that you might start to hear a lot more about these days is sorghum, a nutrient-packed, high-protein, gluten-free ancient grain that is well known in the American South as the principal ingredient in sorghum syrup, a sweetener that's typically poured over cornbread, biscuits, and hotcakes (via Southern Living). But the grain's appeal might soon spread beyond the South, as public schools across the nation add it to their school lunch programs based on a new recommendation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The sorghum recommendation fits right into a new USDA requirement, announced on the first of this month, that at least 80% of the weekly grains in school lunches and breakfasts must contain whole grains (as opposed to refined grains). So in what form should school kids to expect to get to know sorghum? "In bowls, salads, soups, baked goods, and more," Sorghum Checkoff Director of Food Innovations & Institutional Markets Lanier Dabruzzi stated in the press release.

OSHCCs may be approved to claim one or more of the following meal types: breakfast, snack, or supper. A maximum of two meals and one snack or two snacks and one meal may be claimed daily for each child. In addition, such centers may be approved to serve lunch to enrolled school-age children during periods of school vacation, including weekends and holidays, and to enrolled children attending schools which do not offer the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). Such centers, however, cannot be approved to operate the CACFP on weekends only [7 CFR 226.17(b)(5)].

The CACFP lunch and supper meal patterns requires all five food components to be offered: milk, meat/meat alternates, vegetables, fruits, and grains. Milk is optional for supper meals served in the adult day care centers.

Be sure to communicate with families that meal substitutions may occur because of supply chain issues, especially those families with food allergies. This could be done on menus, school websites and social media.

Sponsors do not need to request a waiver or receive MDE approval to use the emergency non-competitive procurement method and may use this procurement method as long as the supply chain disruption occurs. For example, if a sponsor experiences an unexpected food order cancellation, the sponsor may go to the local grocery to purchase food as many times as they need using the emergency procurement method until their next food order arrives. The sponsor could also do an emergency one-year sole source emergency procurement to ensure they have food the entire school year.

Recent changes to the meal pattern requirements have eliminated past meal patterns such as nutrient standards, assisted nutrient standards and the traditional food-based and enhanced meal patterns. All SFA are required to offer or serve a food-based meal pattern assigned to a grade group. The new requirements assign: minimum serving sizes on grains, meat and meat alternates, milk, fruit, and vegetables, assigns weekly maximum and minimum calories; limits saturated fat and sodium; and eliminates trans-fat. Additionally, schools are required to increase the availability of fruits and vegetables subgroups, whole grains, and limit the types of milk served to low-fat and fat- free. Table 1 lists the meal pattern requirements based on grade groups for both breakfast, and lunch and lists the minimum daily serving sizes and maximums weekly serving sizes for each meal component.

In addition to following to the new meal patterns when serving a reimbursable lunch, schools and RCCIs are also required to provide healthier breakfast, snacks, and a la carte items, which consist of the required meal components. Additional foods items may be sold during the school day as long as they comply with required fat, calorie, and sodium requirements.

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 has modified the types of foods and serving sizes that SFAs must offer for a reimbursable meal. The meal pattern requires schools to offer or serve five required food components for lunch, four required food items for breakfast, a variety fruits and vegetables throughout the week, whole grain rich products, and low-fat or fat-free milk. The weekly requirements must comply with nutrients standards such as low-fat, low-sodium, food items containing no trans-fat, and a weekly average calorie range. Serving sizes are specified for each grade group. See Table 1 for specific information on the meal pattern for both breakfast and lunch.

For lunch, the meal pattern consists of five specific food components: 1) fruits, 2) vegetables, 3) grains, 4) meat/meat alternates, and 5) fluid milk. Food components required: grains must be whole-grain rich, vegetables must consist of vegetable subgroups, and milk can only be 1% or fat-free. All items should be low in sodium and saturated fat. No trans-fat is allowed. See specific requirements for each food components.

Each school is required to serve the correct portion size, nutrient standards, and calories for each grade group. For lunch, age/grade groups consist of K-5, 6-8, and 9-12. The requirements for K-5 and 6-8 overlap slightly. Therefore, if planned correctly, one menu can be served as long as the school is compliant with the nutrient standards for each grade group. Grades 9-12 and cannot be modified to fit the needs of K-8 because larger serving sizes are required. However, it is possible to plan a menu for K-12 and increase the portion size for high school students.

Food components are the required foods that schools must serve in order to comply with the meal pattern. Food items are the number of food offered or served. Offering several food items is no indication that the menu planned is in compliance with the required meal patterns.

VegetablesSchools are required to offer a variety of vegetables for lunch in the form of subgroups to reach the weekly requirement per grade group. Required minimum weekly quantities for each subgroup are established in the lunch meal pattern: 2-5, 6-8, 9-12. Pasteurized, full-strength vegetable juice is also allowable (it is credited to meet no more than one-half of the vegetables component). To ensure vegetables are served as required, designate a day of the week for each subgroup. Vegetables are an option for breakfast.Each week the school is required to offer or serve (depending on approved policy) in proper portions: -dark green vegetable -red/orange -beans/peas -starchy -other vegetable (different from the subgroups listed above), and -additional vegetable from any of the food groups to reach the minimum weekly requirements. The school must offer weekly no less than 3 of cup for grades K-8 and no less than 5 cups for high school. The school is not required to offer a vegetable for breakfast. Review table 1 for minimum serving size for each subgroup. There are not maximum limits on vegetables except for vegetable juice.

Reducing Plate Waste: If a school is following the offer versus serve (OVS) policy for breakfast and/or lunch, they must provide enough for each child to take the full required amount of each component. But, a student may take smaller portions of the fruits and vegetables components, if desired. Students must select at least cup daily of the fruits or the vegetables components for a meal to be considered reimbursable under OVS in the NSLP and SBP. If a school practices the serve policy, all components must be served at full serving and a student cannot decline the cup of fruit or vegetable.

If a school offers a formulated fruit-grain product, the fruit cannot be credited for breakfast or lunch. It can be counted towards a grain. If the school chooses to serve the product for lunch, it can only count as a grain-based dessert.

If using a processed food item where both meat and grain is credited toward the meal, schools need either a formulation statement or a CN label to identify the grain and meat contribution to the meal. 041b061a72


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