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Signage Requirements for School Meals

If you have questions or need assistance with signage please contact your zone consultants.

Signage for breakfast and lunch school meals has been required since 2012 as a result of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act regulations.  The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) regulations at 7 CFR 210.10(a) (2) require that schools identify, near or at the beginning of serving lines, what foods constitute unit-priced reimbursable meals.  It is important that students, servers, and cashiers are able to identify what constitutes a reimbursable meal.  Schools have discretion to determine the best way to present the information; however, implementing this requirement must not result in overt identification of any student participating in the NSLP or School Breakfast Program through the use of a separate serving line for the reimbursable meal or other segregation of certified students. 

Signage Requirements in N.C.
During technical assistance reviews and administrative reviews, reviewers look for the following requirements to be met for signage: 

  1. Signage is posted at or near beginning of serving line
  2. Identifies the minimum (items or components) that must be taken to constitute a reimbursable meal
  3. Identifies the maximum (items or components) that may be taken as part of a reimbursable meal 
  4. Indicates the required fruit/vegetable component quantity

Schools using Offer versus Serve must also identify what a student must select in order to have a reimbursable meal. Therefore the minimum (number of items or components) that must be taken to constitute a reimbursable meal must be identified on the signage.   

Students and their parents/guardians need to be aware of the components included in school meals.  Parents can then reinforce nutrition education messages at home, and all students need to learn how to make healthy choices for a balanced meal.  Some students need more calories than others and want more than the minimum items/components needed for a reimbursable meal.  Therefore, the maximum (number of items or components or choices) that may be taken must also be identified on the signage.   

Signage and Menus should provide the same clear information about allowable choices from the planned school menus for breakfast and lunch.  The Menu Planner should control the message provided by the Signage to assure that it aligns with the planned menu.  Signage that provides a clear message to students will help to avoid problems at the point-of-service.   Signage must tell the customer about the requirement to take a serving of a fruit or vegetable at both breakfast and lunch. 

Many schools purchase signage templates that allow space for writing in the specific food items that are on the menu each day.  Some of these are erasable pictures of My Plate or My Tray, or something similar.  It is certainly acceptable to list the names of menu items on signage; this provides further helpful information to students and may reduce the unintended purchase of a la carte items.  However, signage stating only the component names, such as meat/grain/fruit/vegetable/milk is acceptable.  No matter what type of signage is used, the four requirements above must be met.

Signage messages should be simple.  They must be clearly and quickly understood by students.  There is not a single signage template that will work for every school, since signage reflects the way the menu is planned.  When Offer vs Serve is not implemented, a printed menu posted at or near the beginning of the serving line may be sufficient.

Schools are expected to conduct continuing education for cashiers and serving line staff so they can help students select the required food components or food items in the quantities needed for reimbursable lunches and breakfasts.  Offer vs Serve continuing education should be conducted annually and should include signage requirements.  This type of continuing education helps to meet professional standards requirements for school nutrition staff.

Signage is not required for field trips, breakfast in the classroom and other venues where signage may be problematic; however, it is recommended that some type of method be used to inform students about the available menu and any choices they have.

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