A reimbursable meal is a federal meal formula that helps each district determine whether they receive a monetary reimbursement from the Federal Government for each meal given to students. This does not include adult meals or a second full meal for a student. To get reimbursement, the school must follow the USDA guidelines and the “Offer versus Serve” program. (1) Offer versus Serve (OVS) is a provision in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP) that allows students to decline some of the food offered. The goals of OVS are to reduce food waste in the school meal programs while permitting students to decline foods they do not intend to eat. (2)
The lunch and breakfast programs are different, so let’s start with lunch.
For lunch, five components must be offered at each meal. Students must take three of those five components for the government to count it as a reimbursable meal. Students are also required to take a serving of fruit or vegetable as one of the three components. The components are:
- Meat/Meat Alternate
- Grain (50% must be whole grain)
- Vegetables (must meet the requirement for specific categories of vegetables based on color)
- Milk (must be skim or 1%) (2)
There are different requirements for each grade group; see the chart below from the USDA website. It tells how many servings per week a school meal site must offer.
At breakfast, four components must be offered at each meal. Students are required to take three of the four components and one must be a full serving of fruit to be counted as a reimbursable meal. The components are:
- 1-2 servings of grain
- ½ cup of fruit
- ½ cup serving of 100% juice
- Milk (2)