As the school year and school meal programs have gotten underway, USDA recently released memos clarifying requirements for foods and beverages offered as part of the National School Breakfast and National School Lunch Program.

One memo made clear that, although schools are required to make water available to students during meal service, water cannot replace or interfere with milk served as part of a reimbursable school meal. Following concerns from IDFA members regarding bottled water being sold on school meal lines, IDFA staff worked with USDA to help promote clarity that milk, and not water, is a required component of school meals. The memo plainly states that water that is available during meal service cannot affect the inclusion of milk as part of a reimbursable meal: “Furthermore, commercially packaged water and potable water should not be made available on the serving line in any manner that interferes with or appears to substitute for the selection of components of the reimbursable meal, including low-fat or fat-free milk.”

In addition to the memo on school milk and water availability, USDA also issued a memo regarding crediting of smoothies sold in school meals. Previously, USDA allowed smoothies to count toward the milk requirement in school meals, but only when those smoothies were prepared in-house. However, the recent memo also allows commercially prepared smoothies to be credited toward the milk requirement for meal reimbursement, as long as the smoothie manufacturer provides information about the amount of milk in the smoothie.