USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service Increases Flexibility For Planning Grain Servings for School Meals

12/18/2012

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) has announced increased flexibility for School Food Authorities (SFA) to plan grain servings as a part of healthy breakfast and lunch menus for America’s school children. 

The Wheat Foods Council (WFC) and its partners in the grain industry are pleased with the increased flexibility for grain compliance, since the daily maximums were making it difficult for school foodservice administrators to plan grains at both breakfast and lunch. “The school lunch and breakfast programs have been extremely valuable to our school children over the years and we appreciate FNS’s recognition of the need for increased flexibility for grains,” commented WFC President Judi Adams.

The grain chain groups continue to support the calculation of food/nutrient requirements on a weekly rather than daily basis, which is more practical and workable for school menu planners.

FNS’s additional guidance specifically states that state agencies should consider any SFA compliant with the new range guidelines for grains and meat/meat alternates if the menu meets the daily and weekly minimum requirements, whether or not they have exceeded the maximum requirement for the same components.  FNS cited the difficulty of calculating the grain servings and the decision to allow food suppliers more time to offer more serving options as reason for the change.

During the initial implementation of the School Meal Standards, the state agencies and SFAs highlighted significant challenges in meeting the new grains requirements, primarily because grains can be served in a variety of ways. 

Other challenges included: 

  • Difficulty planning the portion sizes for grains served at both breakfast and lunch in a single day, while trying to stay within their maximum totals for the week;
  • Limited offerings of popular foods due to maximums;
  • Variations of grain maximums for multiple age groups and the need to have multiple serving lines to accommodate the differences;
  • The lack of certain portion sizes of popular grain products by suppliers to meet range requirements.

Click here to link to USDA’s official announcement of the updated guidance for grain maximums.

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