USDA Gives School Officials the Authority to Complete a Meal Application for a Student in Need

The Salt Lake City School District made the news in late January, when school food service workers took meals away from students and threw them away. The reason – negative lunch account balances. The press vilified school officials. The problem of unpaid account balances is widespread across the country. A 2012 School Nutrition Association survey of school meal program directors found that 53% of school districts were experiencing an increase in unpaid meal charges. This becomes a challenge to district leaders who must manage the school foodservice budget while being sensitive to the needs of children they serve.

School districts are now faced with adopting policies to address the number of charges allowed per student and how to provide meals to students after they reach their limit. Are some of these unpaid balances from students who cannot afford to pay for meals? If so, local school officials may complete an application for a child known to be eligible if the household fails to apply.

To learn more about completing an application for a child, see the information below, taken from the Eligibility Manual for School Meals (Section I, pages 35-36) provided by Child Nutrition Program, FNS, USDA.

Link to Eligibility Manual:


“Local school officials may complete an application for a child known to be eligible if the household fails to apply. When exercising this option, the school official must complete an application on behalf of the child based on the best household size and income information. The source of the information must be noted on the application. Names of household members, the last four digits of the social security number and signature of an adult household member need not be secured. These applications are excluded from verification. However, the household must be notified that the child has been certified to receive free and reduced price benefits.

This option is intended for limited use in individual situations and must not be used to make eligibility determinations for categories or groups of children.”

Opaa! Food Management believes that school officials should consider this little known provision, if appropriate; to ensure that eligible students receive nutritious meals at school.

Wellness & Nutrition Webinar Series Expands Training Commitment

To serve each of our client school districts more effectively, Opaa! has committed to the certification of each of our Directors of Nutrition Services, through the School Nutrition Association (SNA). Over the past two years, we have created our own training programs; approved by SNA for continuing education units. January 2014 marks the expansion of our previous efforts, with the introduction of Opaa!’s new webinar series entitled, “Wednesday with Wellness & Nutrition.” The Wellness & Nutrition team will host seven webinars before the end of the school year and continue the series throughout the 2014-15 school year.

Each of these webinars will provide one continuing education credit toward School Nutrition Association Certification for our Director of Nutrition Services.

Upcoming Webinar Topics:

  • Let’s Plan a Wellness & Nutrition Fair – How to successfully plan and implement a wellness and nutrition fair in your district.
  • Food Allergies & Sensitivities – Working with parents, children, teachers and administration to address students with special diet needs.
  • HealthierUS School Challenge Certification – Nationally recognize your school through promotion of good nutrition and physical activity.
  • Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act Breakfast Guidelines 2014-15 – Learn the most up-to-date USDA regulations for breakfast starting July 2014.
  • Understanding Gluten Free Diets – What is a gluten free diet and how do you make meal substitutions?
  • Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act Lunch Guidelines 2014-15 – Learn the most up-to-date USDA regulations for lunch starting July 2014.
  • USDA’s “Smart Snacks in School” Nutrition Standards – Introducing nutrition standards for all foods sold in school to promote healthier eating.

Is Your School Ready To Take The Challenge?

The HealthierUS School Challenge was established by USDA to recognize schools that are creating healthier school environments through their promotion of good nutrition, physical activity and nutrition education. The HealthierUS School Challenge application process is as simple as meeting the criteria for each of the three areas listed below:

  1. School Meals – Serve Opaa! school breakfast and lunch menus.
  2. Nutrition Education – Provide students with a variety of nutrition education opportunities.
  3. Physical Activity – Provide students with physical education and additional opportunities for students to be engaged in physical activity.

Opaa! is actively partnering with our school districts to apply for HealthierUS School Challenge certification. Opaa! school breakfast and lunch menus meet the school meal components of the HealthierUS School Challenge requirements for certification compliance. By meeting the guidelines of the school meals component, schools served by Opaa! may seek HealthierUS School Challenge certification in their districts.

Opaa! menus are designed to reflect good menu planning principles, such as serving a variety of healthier foods that look good, taste good, and appeal to the cultural sensitivities of our school and community populations. Opaa! menus have been created to provide students a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products.

Schools receiving certification will receive a recognition plaque, monetary award and award banner from USDA to proudly display in your school to showcase your schools achievement. Take advantage of Opaa!’s value added service to guide you through this application process by contacting your Director of Nutrition Services.

Get the application started today. It’s as easy as 1,2,3! HealthierUS School Challenge Bronze Certified School Districts

Ava R-I School District Ava R-I School District

  • Ava Elementary School

Morgan County R-2 School District

  • Morgan County Elementary School
  • Morgan County South Elementary

Mountain View-Birch Tree R-III School District

  • Birch Tree Elementary
  • Mountain View Elementary

Palmyra R-I School District

  • Palmyra Elementary

Marshfield School District

  • Hubbell Elementary
  • Shook Elementary
  • Webster Elementary

Mountain Grove R-3 School District

  • Mountain Grove Elementary

West Plains School District

  • South Fork Elementary
  • West Plains R-7 Elementary

Gasconade R-I School District

  • Hermann Elementary

Lafayette County C-1 School District

  • Grandview Elementary

Smithville R-II School District

  • Smithville Primary Elementary
  • Smithville Upper Elementary

Southern Boone County School District

  • Southern Boone Elementary
  • Southern Boone Primary

Kearney R-I School District

  • Dogwood Elementary
  • Hawthorne Elementary
  • Kearney Elementary
  • Southview Elementary

McDonald County School District

  • Anderson Elementary
  • Noel Elementary
  • Noel Primary
  • Pineville Elementary
  • Pineville Primary
  • Rocky Comfort Elementary
  • Southwest City Elementary
  • White Rock Elementary

Nixa Public School District

  • Early Learning Center
  • Espy Elementary
  • Inman Intermediate
  • Matthews Elementary
  • Summit Intermediate
  • Thomas Elementary
  • Century Elementary
  • High Pointe Elementary

Platte County R-3 School District

  • Barry School
  • Donald G. Siegrist Elementary
  • Pathfinder Elementary
  • Paxton Elementary
  • Rising Star Elementary

Van-Far R-I School District

  • Van-Far Elementary

A Tribute to Opaa! Farm Partners

Farm to School is the practice of sourcing local food for schools or preschools and providing agriculture, health and nutrition education opportunities such as school gardens, farm field trips, and cooking lessons. Farm to School activities can help cultivate long-term healthy eating habits. These programs deliver food that not only nourishes children’s bodies, but provides the opportunity to enhance their educational experience by connecting with local farms and farmers.

Farm to School programs ensure that your child is offered the highest quality food available. Farm to School improves the health of children and communities while supporting local and regional farmers. They are a win-win for kids, farmers, communities, educators, parents, and the environment.

This school year, Opaa! is fortunate to be working with a number of Farm to School partners. These partnerships have greatly expanded the number of menu items offered to students and staff members during the growing season.

Opaa! Farm Partners and Locally Grown Products Include:

  • Rasa Orchards in Lexington, Missouri – Jonathan Apples
  • Hamra Farms in Sikeston, Missouri – Hydroponically Grown Living Lettuce, Green Peppers and Tomatoes
  • Martin Rice in Bernie, Missouri – Long Grain White & Brown Rice
  • VAP Wheat Co-Op (Wheat from Farmers in Kansas and Oklahoma) – Whole Grain-Rich Crust for Pizza and Calzones 
  • Fahrmeier Farms in Lexington, Missouri – Fresh Vegetables
  • Bush Farms in Bonner Springs, Kansas – Sweet Potatoes
  • Southeast Missouri Farms – Variety of Fresh Melons

In an effort to expand our Farm to School program, Opaa! actively seeks local farms to provide fresh products to our students. This expansion is part of our initiative to provide as much “locally grown” food in our schools as possible. Join us in celebrating National Farm to School month and look for the apple icon on our monthly menus to identify farm fresh items served while in season!

USDA’s “All Foods Sold in Schools” Standards

USDA recently published new standards for snack foods and beverages sold to children outside the school meal program, on the school campus and at any time during the school day. The new standards, required by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, will require schools to offer healthier snack foods to children at school.

The changes to the lunch and breakfast program over the last year have increased the number of fruits, vegetables and whole grains offered to students. The Smart Snacks in School standards will build on these changes and ensure that kids are only offered tasty and nutritious food during the school day.

All foods sold in school must:

Be a whole grain-rich product; or

  • Have as the first ingredient a fruit, vegetable, dairy product or protein food; or
  • Be a combination food that contains at least 1/4 cup fruit and/or vegetable; or
  • Contain 10% of the Daily Value (DV) of one of the nutrients of public health concern in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (calcium, potassium, vitamin D, or dietary fiber).

Foods must also meet several nutrient requirements:

  • Calorie limits:
    • Snack items: < 200 calories
    • Entrée items: < 350 calories
  • Sodium limits:
    • Snack items: < 230 mg
    • Entrée items: < 480 mg
  • Fat limits:
    • Total fat: < 35% of calories
    • Saturated fat: < 10% of calories
    • Trans fat: zero grams
  • Sugar limit:
    • < 35% of weight from total sugar in foods

Nutrition Standards for Beverages: All schools may sell:

  • Plain water (with or without carbonation)
  • Unflavored low fat milk
  • Unflavored or flavored fat free milk and milk alternative permitted by NSLP/SBP
  • 100% fruit or vegetable juice

Elementary schools may sell up to 8 ounce portions, while middle schools and high schools may sell up to 12 ounce portions of milk and juice. There is no portion size limit on plain water.

Additional beverage options for High School students:

  • No more than 20 ounce portions of:
    • Calorie free, flavored water (with or without carbonation)
    • Other flavored and/or carbonated beverages that are labeled to contain < 5 calories for 8 fluid ounce or < 10 calories per 20 fluid ounces
  • No more than 12 ounce portions of
    • Beverages with < 40 calories per 8 fluid ounces, or < 60 calories per 12 fluid ounces.


  • Accompaniments such as cream cheese, salad dressing, ketchup and butter must be included in the nutrient profile as part of the food item sold.
  • This will help control the amount of calories, fat, sugar and sodium added to foods by accompaniments, which can be significant.


  • The sale of food items that meet nutrition requirements at fundraisers are not limited under the standards.
  • The standards do not apply during non-school hours, on weekends and at off-campus fundraising events.
  • The standards provide a special exemption for infrequent fundraisers that do not meet the nutrition standards. State agencies may determine the frequency with which these fundraising activities can take place. No specially exempted fundraiser food or beverage may be sold in competition with school meals in the food service area during the meal service.

When will the new standards go into effect? The new standards will be effective July 1, 2014.

Public Comment
USDA is seeking comments on these standards. The comment period is open through October 28, 2013. Feedback from students, parents, school foodservice staff, school administrators, State agencies and other interested parties is critical to ensuring successful standards. To find the standards online, go to and search by docket number FNS-2011-0019 or you may type in the name of the rule “Nutrition Standards for All Foods Sold in School”.

The Wellness & Nutrition Team at Opaa! will continue to review the details of the newly proposed regulations and provide feedback through the public comment process.