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Offer vs. Serve
 Components of a Balanced School Meal
Components of a Balanced School Meal

What is Offer versus Serve?

Offer versus Serve is a system that applies to menu planning and the determination of a reimbursable school meal. OVS allows students to decline some of the food offered in a school lunch or school breakfast.  Students eat better when they are allowed choices. Other benefits include less wasted food and cost savings when preparing less food.

If a student has not chosen the required number of items, the cafeteria staff may sometimes ask them to take another item to qualify for a meal under the Offer vs. Serve guidelines.  If your child refuses to take the required number of components, we are required to charge the higher "a la carte" prices for each item.

At breakfast:

Students must be served 4 food items from 3 or 4 components in at least the minimum serving size for the appropriate age/grade group.

The 4 food components for breakfast are:

  1. Meat/Meat Alternative = meat, poultry, fish, cheese, nuts, nut butter, eggs, dry beans, yogurt, and alternative protein products.
  2. Grains/Bread = bread, tortillas, bagels, biscuits, muffins, and many more products made from an enriched or whole-grain meal or flour, plus enriched or fortified cereals.
  3. Vegetable/Fruit = fruit or vegetable in any form or full-strength juice.
  4. Milk = fluid, served as a beverage, on cereal or both.


At lunch:

Students must be offered 5 food items from the 4 food components in at least the minimum serving sizes for the appropriate age/grade group to be reimbursable under USDA regulations,

The 5 food items at lunch include:

  1. Meat/Meat Alternative
  2. Grains/Bread
  3. Vegetables
  4. Fruits - two or more servings of different kinds of vegetables and/or fruits
  5. Milk

The 4 food components at lunch are:

  1. Meat/Meat Alternate
  2. Vegetables/Fruits
  3. Grains/Bread
  4. Milk

General OVS Requirements for Lunch:

  • Students must take at least 3 of the 5 food items.  This is the minimum under Federal program regulations. 
  • Students may take smaller portions of the declined food items.
  • The meal must be priced as a unit.  That is, a student who takes 3, 4, or 5 food items, or smaller portions of some items, pays the same price.

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