School Lunch Patterns

US Department of Agriculture, National School Lunch Program
USDA recommends, but does not require that portions be adjusted by age/grade to better meet the nutritional needs of children according to their ages.  If portions are not adjusted, Group IV portions are the portions to serve all children.


Minimum Requirements


Meat or Meat Alternative
(Quantity of the edible 
portion as served)

A serving of one of the following or a 
combination to give an equivalent

Lean meat, poultry, or fish


Large egg(s)

Cooked dry beans

Peanut butter or other nut or seed butters

Grades 4-12 
(Group IV)

2 oz.

2 oz.


1/2 cup

4 Tbsp

Specific Requirements

Must be served in the main dish or the main dish and only one other menu item.

*Vegetable protein products, cheese alternative products, and enriched macaroni with fortified protein may be used to meet part of the meat or meat alternate requirement.  Food and Nutrition Service fact sheets on each of these alternate foods give detailed instructions for use.

  Peanuts, soy nuts, free nuts, or seeds, as listed in program guidance, meet no more than 50% of the requirement and must be combined in the meal with at least 50% of other meat or meat alternates (1 oz. of nuts/seeds = 1 oz. of cooked lean meat, poultry, or fish).

1 oz. = 50%


Vegetable or Fruit

2 or more servings of vegetables or fruits or both to total.

3/4 cup

*No more than 1/2 of the total requirement may be met with full-strength fruit or vegetable juice

*Cooked dry beans or peas may be used as a meat alternate or as a vegetable, but not as both in the same meal.

Bread or Bread Alternate

Servings of bread or bread alternate must be enriched or whole-grain.  A serving is a slice of bread or an equivalent serving of biscuits, rolls, etc. or 1/2 cup of cooked rice, macaroni,  noodles,  other pasta products or cereal grains, or a combination of any of the above.

8 per week

minimum of one serving per day

*Enriched macaroni with fortified protein may be used as a meat alternate, or as a bread alternate, but not as both in the same meal.

NOTE:  Food Buying Guide for Child Nutrition Programs, Program Aid No. 1331 (1964) provides the information for the minimum weight of a serving.

(as a beverage)

The following forms of milk must be offered:  whole milk, unflavored milk low fat milk
NOTE: This requirement does not prohibit offering other milk such as flavored milk or skim mild, along with the above.

1/2 pint
(8 fl. oz.)




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