National School Lunch Program (NSLP)

Technical Developments, Engineered Food, and Equipment and Service

Last Modified: 07/26/2013

By Gordon W. Gunderson

Technical Developments in School Food Service

The Type A meal pattern has been developed over a period of many years testing and is presently recognized as a good, nutritious meal. Nevertheless, it is constantly undergoing further research as to nutritional content and acceptability among elementary and high school students. Cost, availability and other factors which affect participation and expansion are also studied.

Engineered Foods

There has also been close cooperation with the food industry in research into fortifying and enriching food products which might simplify school feeding in schools which lack space and food preparation facilities.

Some such foods are classified as "engineered foods." Since some of these are still in the early stages of development and others can vary widely in ingredients and nutritive value, the Secretary of Agriculture has issued guidelines to the State educational agencies on the use of engineered foods in the school lunch and breakfast programs. Overall requirements are: "(a)that the food product be on the market or be intended for the commercial market in a form similar to traditional foods; (b) that there be adequate evidence that the new or modified foods contribute to improved nutrition; (c) that the new or modified foods be as acceptable and will cost the same or less than traditional alternatives.” 57 Engineered food are defined by the Department of Agriculture as "those foods which are so prepared and processed that they: improve nutrition, reduce cost, ofer greater convenience in meal preparation, improve acceptability, and improve stability.” 

Equipment and Service

Along with the development of engineered foods there has been a constant improvement in food preparation and serving equipment. Preparation of foods in central kitchens for delivery to other schools within a school district has brought about new packaging and food delivery systems to make the job less difficult in schools without kitchens and serving areas. Mobile units which keep hot foods hot or which hold cold foods at the right temperature either in bulk form or in individual containers are readily available on the market. Disposable plates, cups, bowls, and utensils eliminate dish washing problems in schools without equipment and enhance sanitation in school food service.

57 Herbert Rorex, Implications of the New Regulations on School Food Service as Related to Feeding the Child Now, Paper presented at 5th Annual Industry Seminar, October 20, 1970.