The School Lunch

School districts participating in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) agree to serve lunches that comply with Federal and State regulations in return for reimbursement for lunches served. The NSLP looks at a school lunch as having “components” that make a complete lunch. Unless a minimum number of items, or components, are taken by a student, a free or reduced lunch cannot be purchased. The minimum number of components that must be taken by a student is three. To qualify as a lunch, students must take either a fruit or vegetable, and may take both. All food items offered on a menu are classified as “components.” The five components of a school lunch are:

  • Meat/Meat Alternate – Includes all beef, chicken, ham and pork items, cheese and eggs.
  • Bread/Bread Alternate – Includes all bread items including taco shells, pastas, bread filling and pizza crust.
  • Vegetables – All potato items, fresh and frozen vegetables and tomato soup.
  • Fruit – All fruit, canned or fresh, cherry and apple toppings or crisps and fruit juice.
  • Milk – All fluid milk.

Every lunch menu contains at least one item from each of the five components. A Chicken Patty Sandwich, for example, contains two components: bread (the bun) and meat (the chicken patty). Most entrees, including pizza, cheeseburgers and salad plates, contain two components. It is important to note that students must take a fruit or vegetable to qualify as a lunch starting in August, 2012.