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Clarification on the Milk and Water Requirements in the School Meal Program

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FNS Document #
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Policy Memos
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PDF Icon Policy Memo (67.85 KB)
DATE: September 23, 2019
MEMO CODE: SP 39-2019
SUBJECT: Clarification on the Milk and Water Requirements in the School Meal Programs
TO: Regional Directors
Special Nutrition Programs
All Regions
State Directors
Child Nutrition Programs
All States

This memorandum rescinds and replaces SP19-2018, issued Aug. 6, 2018. This updated memorandum clarifies regulations that water made available to students in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP) shall not compete with the milk requirement. The NSLP regulations at 7 CFR 210.10(a)(1)(i) require schools to make water available and accessible to children during the meal service. Similarly, the SBP regulations at 7 CFR 220.8(a)(1) require schools to make water available and accessible during the meal service if breakfast is served in the cafeteria. While water must be made available, schools must not directly or indirectly restrict the sale or marketing of fluid milk (7 CFR 210.10(d)(4)).

There are several ways in which a school can implement the water requirement without restricting the selection of fluid milk. Memorandum SP28-2011, Revised July 12, 2011: Water Availability During National School Lunch Program Meal Service, explains that schools can offer water pitchers and cups on lunch tables, a water fountain, or a faucet that allows students to fill their own bottles or cups with drinking water. There may be some instances where, to facilitate a smooth lunchroom service or in the case of safety, a school decides to provide bottled water to meet the water requirement instead of providing a water fountain or water pitcher and cups. In whatever manner water is served, it is not part of the reimbursable meal, and students are not required to take water. Furthermore, commercially packaged water and potable water should not be made available on the serving line in any manner that interferes with or appears to substitute for the selection of components of the reimbursable meal, including low-fat or fat-free milk.

State agencies are reminded to distribute this memorandum to program operators. Program operators should direct any questions concerning this guidance to their state agency. State agencies with questions should contact the appropriate FNS regional office.

Angela Kline
Policy and Program Development Division

Page updated: January 14, 2022

The contents of this guidance document do not have the force and effect of law and are not meant to bind the public in any way. This document is intended only to provide clarity to the public regarding existing requirements under the law or agency policies.