Schools to change meal patterns amid new guidelines

Maine’s school districts will need to transition to new school meal patterns beginning July 1, after the recent release of new federal nutrition guidelines for school meals.

Changes to the meal patterns, which will be phased in over the next seven years, include:

  • Half of the grains offered must be whole grains.
  • Flavored milk must be fat-free.
  • Unflavored milk must be 1% fat or less.
  • Menus must fall within the calorie guidelines for each specified grade range.
  • Foods can contain no unnaturally added trans fats.
  • All menus will be “food-based” — built around the inclusion of food components, rather than nutrients.
  • Schools must make sure that students are served a fruit or a vegetable at meals, rather than simply offered them as an option.

Many schools have already worked to improve menus along these lines over the past year.

To help schools make the transition to new meal patterns, Child Nutrition staff from the Maine Department of Education will offer several training opportunities, both in person and online. Trainings are planned for March 26, April 25 and May 17; more details will be forthcoming.

Other meal pattern changes will be implemented over the full seven-year transition period, but the majority will occur in the first three years. Changes will affect both lunch and breakfast offerings.

All school food service directors must be subscribed to the Child Nutrition Services listserve to stay on top of news related to these menu changes. Visit the listserve subscription page to subscribe.

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