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    Food for Thought

    Tools, tips, and information for feeding hungry students.

    Fruits & Vegetables

    Healthier, happier students—the fruits of your labor.

    USDA Fruits Guidelines Overview

    • Fruits/vegetables separated into two components
    • A daily serving at lunch
    • May select from fresh, frozen without added sugar, canned in juice/light syrup, or dried fruit options
      • No more than half the offerings may be in the form of juice
      • 100% juice only
      • ¼ cup dried fruit = ½ cup fruit


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    Grains & Desserts

    Think beyond the bread. Cookies count, but in moderation.

    USDA Grains Guidelines Overview

    • Schools must offer the daily and weekly serving ranges of grains
      • Maximums and minimums
    • Initially, at least ½ of grains offered during the week must be whole grain-rich
    • Beginning in SY 2014-15, all grains offered must be whole grain-rich
      • “Whole grain-rich” foods must contain at least 50 percent whole grains

    Grain-Based Desserts

    • Only two creditable grain-based desserts allowed at lunch per school week
    • Major source of solid fats and added sugars, per DGA 2010

    Criteria for Whole Grain-Rich Foods

    • Meet serving size requirements in Grains/Breads Instruction and
    • Meet at least one of the following
      • Whole grains per serving must be ≥ 8 grams
      • Product includes FDA’s whole grain health claim on its packaging
      • Product ingredient listing lists whole grain first (HUSSC criteria)
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    Make your next food service an udder success.

    USDA Milk Guidelines Overview 

    • Allowable milk options
      • Fat-free (unflavored or flavored)
      • Low-fat (unflavored only)
      • Fat-free or low-fat (lactose-reduced or lactose free)
    • Must offer at least two choices
    • Does not alter nutrition standards for milk substitutes (e.g., soy beverages)
    • Milk provisions also apply to children ages 3-4
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    Trays & Silverware

    The sheer number of today’s possible tray and silverware combinations is amazing. And whenyou begin to factor in comingling older items with new replacements, it can boggle the mind. But despite the dizzying array of combinations you might come across in your kitchen, all of these dishes have one important thing in common: they all need to be cleaned. 

    Our dishwashers are made to stand up to the rigors of K-12 food service. So, no matter how many plates (and trays, and bowls, and forks, and spoons) you have spinning at any given time, you know that you’re serving your students on clean dishes. Better yet, you know that you’re serving them on clean dishes that were cleaned quickly while shrinking your carbon footprint and saving money by conserving energy, water, and your staff’s precious time.    

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    Meat & Meat Alternates

    Is it beef, chicken, or tofu you’ll be pickin’?  

    USDA Meats/Meat Alternates Guidelines Overview

    • Daily and weekly requirements for lunch only
      • 2 oz. eq. daily for students in grades 9-12
      • 1 oz. eq. daily for younger students
    • A variety of meat/meat alternates is encouraged
      • Foods from the beans/peas (legumes) subgroup may be credited as a meat alternate
    • Tofu and soy yogurt will be allowable as meat alternate
    • See memo SP-16-2012, Crediting Tofu and Soy Yogurt Products


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    Fruits & Vegetables

    Veggie variety presents many appealing options.

    USDA Vegetables Guidelines Overview

    • Daily serving that reflects variety over the week
    • Vegetable subgroup weekly requirements for
      • Dark Green (e.g., broccoli, collard greens, spinach)
      • Red/Orange (e.g., carrots, sweet potatoes)
      • Beans/Peas (Legumes) (e.g., kidney beans, lentils)
      • Starchy (e.g., corn, green peas, white potatoes)
      • Other (e.g., onions, green beans, cucumbers)
      • Additional vegetables to meet 5 cup weekly total

    Various Preparation Methods Available

    • Fresh, frozen, and canned products
    • USDA Foods offers variety of no salt added or lower sodium products
    • Foods from the beans/peas (legumes) subgroup may be credited as a vegetable OR a meat alternate
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    Helping You Simplify & Succeed

    As you well know, there’s a lot more to K-12 food service than merely plopping food onto trays. It’s both complicated and complex. There are many moving parts to coordinate—before and after meals are served—and myriad variables that can impact your performance on any given day. So, to help you simplify and succeed, we’ve taken some valuable planning, prep, and product information and put it all in one place. This place. And if you ever need to talk things through, don’t hesitate to get in touch. 

    USDA Lunch Meal Components

    • Fruits
    • Vegetables
    • Grains
    • Meat/Meat Alternate
    • Milk

    USDA Lunch Calorie Ranges

    Grades K-5 (ages 5-10) 
    550 – 650 calories

    Grades 6-8 (Ages 11-13)
    600 – 700 calories

    Grades 9-12 (Ages 14-18)
    750 – 850 calories

    Current National School Lunch Program Reimbursements 

    Free Lunches

    Reduced-Price Lunches 

    Paid Lunches

    If your lunches are certified as compliant with USDA meal requirements, you may qualify for bonus reimbursements. For the most current reimbursement rates, visit the USDA Food and Nutrition Service website.

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    What’s Your Legacy?

    Lunchtime can positively impact students’ lives. Share and enjoy your stories here.

    Make Sure You're Up to the Test

    Feeding hungry students isn’t child’s play, but a little playfulness can help. Keep your young students engaged with some fun and educational coloring pages from our Prep Academy Knowledge Center. Just download, print, and share!

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    Preparing the Future

    The Hobart & Baxter Prep Academy is dedicated to helping K-12 food service professionals prepare students for the future.

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