Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

School Meals Building Blocks for Healthy Children

Resource type
Research type
Food/Nutrient Analysis
National Academy of Sciences/IOM

The Nutrition Standards and Meal Requirements provide the foundation for the school meals programs. If the meals offered meet the Nutrition Standards and Meal Requirements in USDA regulations, the USDA subsidizes the cost of the school meals through cash reimbursements. In fiscal year 2007, the value of the cash reimbursements was nearly $10 billion total for both programs. In the same year, USDA also provided the programs with commodity foods valued at approximately $1 billion. The commodity foods available to schools have changed over the years, and states may now choose from a list of more than 180 agricultural commodities, including more foods that are encouraged by Dietary Guidelines for Americans, such as fruits and vegetables

The committee’s work has been divided into two phases. This report reflects the outcomes of the Phase I activities. The goal of Phase I was to describe the approach that the Institute of Medicine Committee on Nutrition Standards for National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs proposes to use in making recommendations for revisions to the Nutrition Standards and Meal Requirements of the school meal programs. During Phase I the committee identified and reviewed available data and information, formulated working principles and criteria, reviewed and assessed the reported food and nutrient intakes by schoolchildren, and described its planning model and analytic methods for developing recommendations for revising the standards. At the time this Phase I report is released, comments from interested parties will be accepted. The report will be discussed during a public forum carried out as part of the next scheduled committee meeting.1 The input received will be taken int

This Phase I report provides

  • an overview of the school meal programs and the participants;
  • an overview of reasons for updating program standards;
  • the Nutrition Standards and Meal Requirements currently in use;
  • topics relevant to updating the Nutrition Standards and Meal Requirements;
  • the working principles and criteria that the committee will use to guide its efforts; and
  • descriptions of the methods that the committee proposes that it will use to develop recommendations for revisions, including
    • an assessment of the nutrient and food needs of schoolchildren,
    • a planning model that addresses nutrients and foods and the assumptions on which the model is based, and
    • methods for incorporating sensitivity analyses and addressing cost implications and market effects

Topics related to the competitive foods offered in schools (e.g., foods available in vending machines, at snack bars, and à la carte) are outside the scope of this report.

Page updated: December 03, 2021