The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has issued Policy Memo SP 41-2015, Updated Offer versus Serve Guidance for the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program Effective Beginning School Year (SY) 2015-2016.
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 meals programs while permitting students to decline foods they do not intend to eat. OVS is optional at all grade levels for breakfast and required at the senior high school level only for lunch. The intent of this updated guidance is to clarify the requirements of OVS, specifically related to what students must take in order to have a reimbursable meal.
Free water must be available to students during meal service. Water is not considered part of the reimbursable meal. Program operators may not offer water or any other beverage as an alternative to fluid milk.
Schools must identify, near or at the beginning of the serving line(s), the food items that constitute the unit-priced reimbursable school meal(s). Posters were distributed at 2015 Director’s Conference to assist with this requirement, but other methods might also be used.
OVS at Lunch
At lunch, schools must offer students all five required food components in at least the minimum required amounts. The components at lunch are:
• meats/meat alternates;
• and fluid milk.
Under OVS, a student must take at least three components in the required serving sizes. One selection must be at least ½ cup from either the fruit or vegetable component.
OVS at Breakfast
At breakfast, schools must offer students all three required food components in at least the minimum required amounts. The components at breakfast are:
• grains (with optional meats/meat alternates allowed);
• and milk.
Under OVS, a student must be offered at least four food items and must select at least three food items, one of which must be ½ cup of fruit or vegetables for OVS.
Additional information related to the lunch or breakfast meal pattern requirements can be found in USDA Policy Memo SP 10-2012v.9, Q&As on the Final Rule - Nutrition Standards in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs, issued August 3, 2015.
Offer versus Serve Guidance for the NSLP and the SBP, SY 2015-16
SP 10-2012 v9