Pesto Chicken Wrap Recipe to help with your NSLP Meal Pattern requirements

 

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NSLP Meal Pattern (National School Lunch Program) Supports Student Wellness, Academic Performance

The National School Lunch Program is an important federal nutrition program that provides school lunch to nearly 30 million students daily during school years not affected by extenuating conditions such as COVID-19. Nearly 100,000 public and private schools and organizations participate in the program, serving 4.9 billion lunches annually. (Source: USDA FY 2019 preliminary data)

The program changed dramatically with the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. Driven by the rising rates of childhood obesity, the Act laid out wellness and physical activity requirements, more rigorous nutritional guidelines and specific meal patterns for all federal child nutrition programs, including the National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, Summer Food Service Program and the Child and Adult Care Food Program. Any school or organization participating in any of these meal programs must comply with the program meal patterns to receive federal reimbursement for meals served. 

The NSLP meal pattern has weekly limits on calories, sodium and saturated fat in school lunches, which vary by age groupings. In addition, there are daily and weekly minimums for servings of: 

  1. Fruits 
  2. Vegetables (including requirements for multiple vegetable subgroups) 
  3. Grains
  4. Meats/Meat Alternates 
  5. Fluid Milk 

It took some time for foodservice directors to adapt their menus to the NSLP meal pattern. Anticipating this, the USDA introduced the guidelines in 2010 but didn’t begin auditing compliance with the NSLP meal pattern until 2012. Initially, the NSLP meal pattern led to increased plate waste as students were slow to appreciate the healthier foods now on their lunch trays. Over time, manufacturers introduced more products that appealed to students and conformed to the NSLP meal pattern and students adapted to once-unfamiliar foods. 

Initial Resistance Result in Changes to NSLP Meal Pattern

Foodservice directors and the School Nutrition Association pushed back on some elements of the NSLP pattern as being too difficult to implement successfully and cost effectively, however. Specifically, the original guidelines allowed less and less sodium content over time, required 100% whole grains and only permitted serving of non-fat milk. 

The USDA heard their concerns and responded with temporary flexibilities that became permanent in 2019. Now, the NSLP meal pattern requires only half of the weekly grains to be whole-grain-rich, allows flavored and unflavored 1% milk, and permits Sodium 1 Target levels to be maintained through the end of SY 2023-2024.

Even with the modifications, the NSLP meal pattern can make it challenging to plan USDA-compliant menus. That’s where NutriStudents K-12 comes in. The self-operated system helps foodservice directors succeed by providing 40 weeks of USDA-compliant, student-approved lunch menus. The complete menu weeks can be used in any order, exclusively or to supplement a district’s existing menus. 

Just like the NSLP has a prescribed meal pattern, so too do the Summer Food Service Program and the Child and Adult Care Food Program. The meal patterns for these programs differ slightly from the NSLP meal patterns. For example, the SFSP guidelines are based on daily requirements versus daily and weekly totals. The CACFP meal pattern takes into consideration the spectrum of dietary needs of children and adults in daycare programs. NutriStudents K-12 also provides USDA-compliant menu weeks for these programs. 

Higher Standards Pay Off

The cumulative effective of the healthier standards in these child nutrition programs is starting to be realized. After eight years, evidence has emerged demonstrating the NSLP meal pattern has helped improve students’ overall health and nutrition and helped slow the rates of childhood obesity. According to the Food Research & Action Center paper School Meals are Essential for Student Health and Learning, “(National School Lunch and School Breakfast) Program participants are less likely to have nutrient inadequacies and are more likely to consume fruits, vegetables, and milk at breakfast and lunch.” It continued, “School meals support and improve student physical and mental health, including weight-related outcomes. For instance, free or reduced-price school lunches reduce rates of poor health by at least 29 percent and rates of obesity by at least 17 percent, based on estimates using national data.”

The report also noted residual effects of participating in school meals: kids chose healthier foods even when they were not in school. “In a national assessment conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), school lunch participants and school breakfast participants consumed lunches and breakfasts of higher nutritional quality, respectively, than their nonparticipating peers. In many cases, particularly for school lunch participants, these differences in overall dietary quality persisted over a 24-hour time period. Meaning, school meal participants had better dietary quality not just at school, but throughout the entire day.”

In addition to the wellness benefits, school meals help reduce food insecurity, which is linked to negative health, development and educational outcomes such as slower progress in math and reading and a higher likelihood of repeating a grade. (Source: School Nutrition Association)

The NSLP meal pattern, while difficult to implement at first, has paid off for students and schools alike. Students are healthier and have grown accustomed to more nutritional foods, which will help support their wellbeing well into life. Schools appreciate that well-nourished children are more attentive, better behaved and engaged academically. 

 If your school district needs help implementing a successful foodservice program that conforms to all the USDA guidelines, including the NSLP meal pattern, schedule a demonstration with NutriStudents K-12 today. 

 

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We'd Love to Answer Any Questions You Have!

Call toll-free: 844-204-2847 / Email: info@NutriStudentsK-12.com

Or you can Request information

Ask us about our money-back guarantee!*

*Must meet minimum-use requirements to be eligible.