Menu Planning
Menu Planning Tips  Minimize 

Interactive Trays
KIPP Austin students enjoy scratch-made chicken pozole

KIPP Austin's Chicken PozoleKIPP Austin’s chicken pozole recipe is a modified version of a family recipe. Kitchen Manager Cirilo Perez and Chef Lori Nelson worked collaboratively to take an original family recipe and adjust it to meet NSLP guidelines. Pozole is traditionally served with various toppings designed to be added to the bowl. KIPP serves their pozole with corn tostadas and pairs it with homemade Cilantro Lime Slaw and Spiced Corn, so the students can mix the sides into the soup for a traditional version of pozole (see photo). The entire tray is very interactive and provides students with a small piece of food history and culture. Student preferences are a priority for KIPP and, overall, the students really enjoy this dish.

Look ahead with cycle menus for the 2016-2017 school year
Now is the time to begin What's cooking image What's cooking imageplanning successful National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program menus for the 2016-2017 school year. Cycle menus reduce menu planning time, streamline purchasing processes, provide guidance on USDA Foods selections and standardize food production within your operation. Here are some tips to develop your cycle menu:

  • Review current menus and production records in order to identify popular items to include in next year’s menu.
  • Conduct student taste tests on new products and recipes in order to determine which ones to include in next year’s menu.
  • Use proposed menu items to determine purchasing needs and identify which foods are available and cost effective in order to finalize the menu.  

This page has multiple cycle menu resources and recipes to help begin the planning process for successful school lunch and breakfast cycle menus. Visit the USDA Mixing Bowl to search standardized recipes, build a cookbook, create healthy menus and get a shopping list.

Partner with local chef to boost school meal program

The Chefs Move to Schools Chefs move to schools pictureprogram provides schools with the exciting opportunity to connect with volunteer chefs in the community. These connections focus on the unique needs of each school and the individual expertise of each chef. Schools and chefs can work in partnership to incorporate new menu items, offer culinary training to Child Nutrition staff, teach students the importance of healthy meals, and more. The creativity that chef’s bring to school meals can also build enthusiasm for the program among students, parents and teachers. Comal ISD presents beautiful service lines under the auspices of the Chefs Move to Schools program (photo above). Visit the Chefs Move to Schools webpage to find a chef in your area and continue to encourage healthy eating habits!

Chef Kelly Waldron, the Chefs Move to Schools specialist at Region 13 ESC, provides an array of services to districts, such as culinary classes, recipe development, classroom demonstrations, and sanitation training. Click on the Region 13 Chef Network link to view regional chef profiles and contact information, or to generate a similar network for your region!

Crazy for Cranberries! Introduce Students to USDA Cranberries
TDA is excited that our Salad from ElginUSDA Foods orders now include dried cranberries! Dried fruits are a great way to introduce variety into school menus. And as a bonus, remember that dried fruit credits as twice the volume served. This means that ¼ cup of dried cranberries will credit as ½ cup of fruit. Elgin ISD Child Nutrition Director Elizabeth Guajardo offers a beautiful Chicken Fajita Salad recipe with dried craisins that all the students love to eat (see photo). For recipes with dried cranberries, check out pages 39, 41 and 131 of Vermont’s New School Cuisine cookbook.


In order to select this USDA Food for your school meals, look for item USDA Material #100301 – Dried Cranberries Pkg. 5/5 lb. located in the Surplus Column of the Delivery Order Section in Food Distribution (TX-UNPS).

Taste Test for SuccessStudent Taste Test

If you want to know how your students feel about the food items offered in your cafeteria-just ask!  Taste tests are a great opportunity for students to give their opinion and feel valued for their input.  Taste tests can also help you identify which foods will be the most successful when included in the menu.  Clear Creek ISD conducts taste tests with their students to determine what to include in their cycle menu.  They offer the following tips for successful taste tests:


  • Keep it simple.  Offer two to three items at each taste test to avoid confusion.
  • Conduct taste tests as an activity during instruction time in such classes as culinary arts, health or physical education.
  • Let students know which items were selected for inclusion in the menu. 
  • Follow up on the feedback and verify the students are indeed eating the items they tested.

Healthy Whole Grain Cooking Whole Grain Dough

Whole grains typically require slightly different cooking times and procedures. For example, whole grain flours tend to be denser than white flours and may require an increase in leaving agent when used in baked good recipes. Whole grain pastas and brown rice can also take just a few minutes longer to cook than their refined grain versions. As such, simply replacing the original ingredient with the whole grain version of an ingredient may result in yielding an undesirable texture, taste and appearance. Also, the altered recipe may not provide the same grain crediting and thus no longer be considered a “standardized” recipe. For further guidance on standardization of recipes, please refer to section 9 of the Administrative Reference Manual.



Plan for Student ChoiceSalad Bar

Encourage students to try new items and participate in the school meals program by allowing them to make individualized choices about their meals, to the extent possible.  This can be as simple as planning a menu that offers a daily variety of entrée items and side dishes.  Salad bars are another excellent way to offer a colorful variety of fresh choices for students to build their own meals.  The Sub Bar at River Road ISD in Amarillo (shown in photo above) offers a twist on the traditional salad bar.  Middle and high school students enthusiastically build their own reimbursable sandwiches or wraps from an assortment of fresh vegetables and measured amounts of meats and cheeses.

Recipes and Cookbooks  Minimize 

USDA Standardized Recipes

The following USDA recipes are kid-approved and credited to support the new meal pattern requirements. The recipes have been categorized as Entrees or Sides, but you may menu them however you wish. You may also visit the USDA Recipes for Schools website to access more recipes.


Bok Choy Wrappers 
Crunchy Hawaiian Chicken Wrap 
Fiesta Wrap 
Lentils of the Southwest
Rainbow Rice  
Squish Squash Lasagna
Stir-Fry Fajita Chicken, Squash and Corn
Sweet Potato and Black Bean Stew
Vegetable Chili Boat
Aztec Grain Salad 
Central Valley Harvest Bake
Fiesta Mexican Lasagna
Harvest Delight
Mediterranean Quinoa Salad
Peppy Quinoa
Purple Power Bean Wrap  
Tasty Tots


Culinary Institute of America

The Culinary Institute of America’s (CIA) “Healthy Flavors, Healthy Kids” is a National initiative to promote culinary-driven, healthy, flavorful foods for kids.  Through this initiative, the CIA provides culinary strategies and resources to school nutrition program operators so they may continue to serve nutritious food that is also tasty and appealing to our Nation’s children.  You may also visit the Healthy Flavors, Healthy Kids website to access more recipes, as well as a additional resources for culinary strategies and to help kids eat well.


Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, Recipes and Cycle Menus

Creative, easy-to-read lunch recipes developed in 2013 and credited to support the USDA meal pattern requirements. You may also visit the On, Wisconsin! Menus website to access more lunch recipes, breakfast recipes, 3-week breakfast and 5-week lunch cycle menus, nutritional analyses and more.



Project Bread’s Let’s Cook Healthy School Meals cookbook

A collection of 100 kid-tested recipes that are credited to support the USDA meal pattern requirements.  Correction: the summary table of USDA requirements on page. 6 states that “one-half of [grain] offerings must be rich in whole grain.”  Beginning July 1, 2014, all of the grains served in both the NSLP and SBP must be whole grain-rich.

New School Cuisine

A compilation of recipes from schools across Vermont. These recipes are credited to support the USDA meal pattern requirements and exhibit a commitment to cooking food from scratch, food students will “gooble up with delight because it looks good, smells good, feels good in their mouths and bursts with flavor.”  It also includes 10 Tips for Rolling Out a New Recipes at Your School.

Cycle Menu Resources  Minimize 
Alliance for a Healthier Generation Alliance for a Healthier Generation
  • Age appropriate breakfast and lunch cycle menus
  • Recipes that are approved by students and school food service staff, as well as meet the USDA Meal Pattern
  • Helpful resources to purchase school meal ingredients, build support and increase participation


Chef Designed School Lunch Chef Designed School Lunch
  • Two week cycle menu, designed by a chef and dietitian
  • Recipes that are approved by students, meet the USDA meal pattern and minimize school food costs
  • Chef tips on food production and meal service

Ohio Department of Education Menus that Move

Menus that Move

  • Age appropriate cycle menus that incorporate seasonal ingredients
  • Standardized recipes that are student approved and meet the USDA Meal Pattern and Target 1 sodium levels
  • Guidance for schools wishing to meet the HealthierUS School Challenge Bronze-level criteria

Additional Menu Planning Resources  Minimize 
 TDA seal Farm to School
  • Connections with local agricultural producers in the state of Texas
  • Procurement information for purchasing local foods
 TDA seal Success Stories
  • A showcase of best practices being implemented in schools throughout the state of Texas
  • Ideas on how to improve the visual appeal and consumption of your schools meals
 Team Nutrition Logo Team Nutrition 
  • Kid friendly recipes
  • Training and grant opportunities for schools
  • Graphics for use in menus
 Breakfast Logo Energize You Day with School Breakfast
  • USDA-created breakfast toolkit
  • Resources to establish or expand school breakfast service, including assistance in determining which meal service type best meets your school’s needs, calculating operational costs and developing menus
 Let's Move Salad Bars to School Let’s Move! Salad Bars to Schools
  • Salad bars increase students’ fruit and vegetable consumption and teach lifetime healthy habits
  • Funding opportunities for schools that would like to bring a salad bar to their campuses
 Chefs Move to Schools Chefs Move to Schools
  • An integral part of the First Lady’s Let’s Move! Initiative
  • Chef partners provide menu ideas, culinary training and assistance in teaching students about the importance of healthy meals
  • Chef partners build excitement about your school meals program

Meal Planning Button

The Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) lists these resources and providers as a service to school nutrition professionals.
This list does not constitute an endorsement or verification of accuracy on the part of TDA.

In accordance with Federal civil rights law and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) civil rights regulations and policies, the USDA, its Agencies, offices, and employees, and institutions participating in or administering USDA programs are prohibited from discriminating based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability, age, or reprisal or retaliation for prior civil rights activity in any program or activity conducted or funded by USDA.  

Persons with disabilities who require alternative means of communication for program information (e.g. Braille, large print, audiotape, American Sign Language, etc.), should contact the Agency (State or local) where they applied for benefits.  Individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing or have speech disabilities may contact USDA through the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877-8339.  Additionally, program information may be made available in languages other than English.

To file a program complaint of discrimination, complete the USDA Program Discrimination Complaint Form, (AD-3027) found online at: http://www.ascr.usda.gov/complaint_filing_cust.html, and at any USDA office, or write a letter addressed to USDA and provide in the letter all of the information requested in the form. To request a copy of the complaint form, call (866) 632-9992. Submit your completed form or letter to USDA by: 
 (1) mail: 
U.S. Department of Agriculture 
Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights 
1400 Independence Avenue, SW 
Washington, D.C. 20250-9410; 
(2) fax: (202) 690-7442; or 
 (3) email: program.intake@usda.gov.

This institution is an equal opportunity provider.
© 2017 Texas Department of Agriculture