Child Nutrition Policy


The Child Nutrition Outreach Program is interested in federal and state child nutrition policy as it applies to our school and community partners. This section of our website features information about policies that impact program accessibility, nutritional quality, and financial stability. Please check back frequently for updates.


Child Nutrition Policy Updates:

Structured Learning Time Policy Clarification

In February 2015, Commissioner Mitchell Chester released a clarification stating that instruction provided during Breakfast in the Classroom (BIC) can count toward meeting a school's structured learning time requirement (Full text), provided the following conditions are met:

  • The students must be in a classroom or other separate space conducive to learning, not in the cafeteria or other common space shared with other classes
  • A teacher must be present and actively leading instructional activites.
  • No more than 15 minutes should be allotted for distribution of the breakfast, eating, and cleanup.

USDA Offers Flexibility on Whole-Grain Pasta Requirement

Due to the scarcity of whole grain pasta items on the market that maintain their quality when prepared in large-scale cooking operations, the USDA is offering a two-year flexibility in the requirement that all pasta items served be 50% whole grain. Schools will have to demonstrate significant difficulty serving whole-grain pasta and should contact their state agency for details and permission. USDA Press Release.

Child Nutrition Re-Authorization Briefs:

In February 2014, the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) released the first in a series of briefs outlining their priorities for the upcoming Child Nutrition Re-Authorization that will come before US Congress in 2015. The briefs outline steps the legislature could take to remove barriers to school breakfast participation, including:

  • Increasing the number of children who can be directly certified for free meals, thereby reducing the administrative burden on schools and families
  • Removing the "reduced-price" category of school meal eligibility, and instead making school meals free for that group of students, in recognition of the fact that families slightly above the poverty line still struggle to afford the reduced meal fee.
  • Require Title I schools to offer school breakfast and school lunch, helping to ensure that federal funds go to the neediest schools.
  • Introduce grants for schools to update kitchen equipment and comply with federal nutrition standards.
  • Increase the reimbursement to "severe need" schools and reduce the threshold for schools to be considered "severe need".
  • Allow schools to claim reimbursements for every meal served throughout the entire school year to children who become eligible for free meals mid-school year (retroactive reimbursement).

Read FRAC's reasons for calling for these goals in the full brief here.


New Standards for School Meals

On Wednesday, January 25th 2012 the First Lady Michelle Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) new and improved nutrition standards for school meals, the first major changes in 15 years.


The new standards for school meals will increase access to healthier meals for 32 million kids that participate in school meal programs every school day.


Changes to the school meal standards include:

• Fruits and vegetables offered every day of the week

• substantially increase offerings of whole grain-rich foods

• Offering only fat-free or low-fat milk varieties;

• Limiting calories based on the age of children being served to ensure proper portion size; and

• Increasing the focus on reducing the amounts of saturated fat, trans fats and sodium.

Key changes will be largely phased in over a three-year period, starting in School Year 2012-2013.


Please check back regularly for updates regarding the new standards for school meals.