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National School Lunch Program


What is the National School Lunch Program (NSLP)?

The National School Lunch Program is a federally assisted meal program operating in public and non-profit schools. The NSLP provides nutritionally balanced, lost-cost or free lunches to more than 31 million children each school day. Ross Local Schools participate in the lunch program and receive reimbursement and USDA foods from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) from each meal we serve. In return, our cafeterias must serve lunches that meet federal requirements, and offer free and reduce price lunches to eligible children. 

The Ohio Department of Education mandates that food not be sold in competition with the school lunch. The sale of food should not be sold on school premises except for those that are in accordance with District standards. 

  • School stores, vending machines, fundraising or concession outside of those operated by the Food Service Department are prohibited to operate during school meal times as this is deemed as competition with the National School Lunch Program
  • Offering of foods or beverages in vending services that do not meet the nutritional standards established within District policy may not be sold during the school day to students.
  • Bake sales and other school fundraising activities involving food and beverage items may not be held during the school meal periods


Nutritional Requirements

Our school lunches must meet meal pattern and nutritional standards based on the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The current meal pattern increases the availability of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains on the menu. The meal pattern's dietary specifications set specific calorie limits to ensure age-appropriate meals for grades K-5, 6-8, and 9-12. Other meal enhancements include gradual reductions in the sodium content of the meals. 

Lunch Meal Pattern:       Amount of Food Per Week (Minimum per day):

 Menu Component      Grades K-5  Grades 6-8   Grades 9-12  Grades K-8
 Fruit (cups)  2.5   (1/2) 2.5   (1/2)   5   (1)  2.5   (1/2)
 Vegetables (cups)  3.75   (3/4) 3.75   (3/4)   5   (1)   3.75   (3/4)
        Dark Green  1/2  1/2  1/2  1/2 
        Red/Orange  3/4 3/4  1.25  3/4 
        Beans/ Peas  1/2 1/2  1/2  1/2 
        Starchy  1/2  1/2  1/2  1/2 
        Other  1/2  1/2  3/4  1/2 
Additional Vegetables to reach total  1 1.5 
 Grains (oz eq)* 8   (1)  8   (1)  10   (2)  8   (1) 
Meat/ Meat Alternative (oz) 8   (1)  9   (1)  10   (2)  9   (1) 
Fluid Milk (cups) ** 5   (1)  5   (1)  5   (1)  5   (1) 
 Min-Max Calories 550 - 650  600 - 700  750 - 850  600 - 650 
 Saturated Fat (% of total calories) < 10%   < 10%   < 10%   < 10% 
Sodium (mg; 2015 targets)  < 1230  < 1360   < 1420   < 1230 
 Trans Fat  0

 * All grains must be Whole Grain Rich

 ** Fluid milk must be offered in a variety of low-fat (1%, unflavored) and/or fat-free (flavored or unflavored)

Smart Snack

Smart Snack is a regulation that must be met by schools who participate in the National School Lunch Program. Smart Snack regulations apply to foods sold a la carte, in vending machines, or any other venues where food is sold to students. The standards, required by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, will allow schools to offer healthier snack foods to children, while limiting junk food. Smart Snack ensure that kids are only offered tasty and nutritious foods during the school day. 

 To qualify as a Smart Snack, a snack or entree must first meet the general nutrition standards:

  • Be a grain product that contains 50 percent or more whole grains by weight (have a whole grain as the first ingredient); or
  • Have the first ingredient a fruit, vegetable, a dairy product, or a protein food; or
  • Be a combination food that contains at least 1/4 cup of fruit and/or vegetable; and
  • The food must meet the nutrient standards for calories, sodium, sugar, and fats:               
 Nutrient     Snack  Entree 
 Calories  200 calories or less  350 calories or less 
 Sodium   200 mg or less  480 mg or less 
 Total Fat  35% of calories or less  35% of calories or less 
 Saturated Fat  Less than 10% of calories  Less than 10% of calories 
 Trans Fat  0 grams  0 grams
 Sugar  35% by weight or less  35% by weight or less 


All schools must sell:

  • Plain water (with or without carbonation)
  • Unflavored low fat milk
  • Unflavored or flavored fat free milk and milk alternatives permitted by NSLP/SBP
  • 100% fruit or vegetable juice
  • 100% fruit and vegetable juice diluted with water (with or without carbonation), and no added sweeteners
  • Elementary schools may sell up to 8-ounce portions, while middle schools and high schools may sell up to 12-ounce portions of milk and juice. There is no portion size for plain water.
  • Standards allow additional "no calorie" and "lower calorie" beverage options for high school students
  • No more than 2o ounce portions of calorie free flavored water (with or without carbonation and other flavored and/or carbonated beverages that are labeled to contain less than 5 calories per 8 fluid ounces or less than or equal to 10 calories per 20 fluid ounces.
  • No more than 12 ounce portions of beverages with less than or equal to 40 calories per 8 fluid ounces or less than or equal to 60 calories per 12 fluid ounces.


Is My Snack Smart Snack Approved?

To see if something is Smart Snack approved use the Smart Snack Calculator.