Food-Based Menu Planning System requires specific food components be served in certain amounts. With this system, you had to work with four components: Meat /Meat Alternate, Grains/Breads, Vegetables/Fruits, and Milk, and two established age/grade groups for lunch (specifically, one for Grades K through 3, another for Grades 4 through 12). There's also been an optional age/grade group (for Grades 7 through 12). This system is the one that has traditionally been used and is based on the old four food groups. It has been in place since the National School Lunch Program was established in 1946, and the School Breakfast Program in 1966. The plan is designed to provide, over time, 1/3 of the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) for key nutrients for specific age/grade groups for lunch and 1/4 of the RDA for key nutrients for specific age/grade groups for breakfast. Because this system was designed before the Dietary Guidelines became part of school meal requirements, the meal plans do not have any built-in features that will help serve meals that comply with these guidelines. Extra thought needs to be given when planning meals that meet the nutrition goals, including target calorie levels, while reducing fat.
Enhanced Food-Based Menu Planning is similar to the traditional system above, but there are different established age/grade groups. And, there are increased servings of Vegetables/Fruits and Grains/ Breads. In addition, it is designed to provide 1/3 of calorie needs for lunch and 1/4 of calorie needs for breakfast, in addition to the key nutrients. This system was designed to help ensure consistency with the Dietary Guidelines.
Nutrient Standard Menu Planning (NSMP) takes a Nutrient-Based approach to menu planning. Instead of working with specific food components in specific amounts, the menu planner works with menu items. This approach requires a nutritional analysis of foods used in school meals. To do this, schools must use USDA-approved computer software that's widely available and easy to follow. When averaged over a school week, the menu nutrient analysis must provide 1/3 of the RDA for specific nutrients as well as 1/3 of calorie needs for each age or grade group for lunch and provide 1/4 of the RDA for specific nutrients as well 1/4 of calorie needs for each age or grade group for breakfast. It must also meet certain standards which help ensure that meals are consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The same age/grade groups can be used as in Enhanced Food-Based Menu Planning. Or, the computer software can customize optional age groups.
Assisted NSMP is exactly like NSMP except an outside consultant or other agency performs all of the functions of menu planning and nutrient analysis. This system is used if a school does not have computer technology that will allow them to use NSMP. If computers become available, they can easily switch to NSMP.
The School Meals Initiative for Healthy Children (SMI) was initiated in 1995 to ensure that schools are working toward meeting more specific nutrition goals which includes calorie goals that are age appropriate and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Now, regardless of the menu planning option followed, breakfast and lunch menus, when averaged over a school week, should meet the nutrient standards for the selected age or grade group. These nutrient standards set target goals for the following: calories, protein, calcium, iron, and vitamins A and C. They also require that no more than 30 percent of calories come from fat, and that less than 10 percent of calories come from saturated fat.
Amie Hamlin is the Executive Director of the New York Coalition for Healthy School Lunches. NYCHSL is a statewide nonprofit that works to improve the health and well-being of New York's students by advocating for healthy plant-based foods, comprehensive nutrition policy, and education to create food- and health-literate students. Visit: <www.healthylunches.org>. Many thanks to Ann Cooper, author of Lunch Lessons; Todd Fowler, Food Service Director of the Bloomfield Central School District in New York; and the School Nutrition Association for their assistance as I prepared this article.
Veggie Pita Delight
Chili "con soya" with Beans
Vegan Pumpkin Pie
Apple Crisp with a Crunchy Granola Topping
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