[Federal Register Volume 82, Number 239 (Thursday, December 14, 2017)]
[Notices]
[Pages 58792-58795]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2017-26979]


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Notices
                                                Federal Register
________________________________________________________________________

This section of the FEDERAL REGISTER contains documents other than rules 
or proposed rules that are applicable to the public. Notices of hearings 
and investigations, committee meetings, agency decisions and rulings, 
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statements of organization and functions are examples of documents 
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Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 239 / Thursday, December 14, 2017 / 
Notices

[[Page 58792]]



DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Food and Nutrition Service


Food Crediting in Child Nutrition Programs: Request for 
Information

AGENCY: Food and Nutrition Service, USDA.

ACTION: Request for information.

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SUMMARY: The National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, 
Child and Adult Care Food Program, and Summer Food Service Program 
(Child Nutrition Programs), which are administered by the United States 
Department of Agriculture (USDA), Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), 
play a critical role in ensuring that America's children have access to 
the nutritious food they need to learn and succeed in the classroom, 
afterschool, and during the summer. It is FNS' responsibility to 
establish and support the meal patterns and nutrition standards 
(collectively referred to as meal patterns) in the Child Nutrition 
Programs that advance the goals of providing nutritious and satisfying 
meals to a broad population of children. At the same time, FNS works to 
simplify the menu planning process for Program operators to promote the 
efficient use of Program funds and provide a wide variety of food 
choices to menu planners and children.
    In order to claim Federal reimbursement, Child Nutrition Program 
operators must serve meals and snacks that meet the minimum meal 
pattern requirements of the respective Program. Crediting is the 
process designed by FNS to specify how individual food items contribute 
to the Child Nutrition Programs' meal patterns. Several factors impact 
how food products can credit toward reimbursable meals, such as volume, 
weight, and overall nutrient profile.
    The purpose of this Request for Information is to help FNS gather 
feedback from a wide variety of stakeholders on how FNS' crediting 
system can best address today's evolving food and nutrition 
environment, as well as to offer first-rate customer service to those 
operating and benefitting from the Child Nutrition Programs. FNS 
welcomes comments from all interested stakeholders. While FNS is 
interested in your general comments about the crediting process, FNS 
also invites comments on the crediting of several specific food 
products. FNS is especially interested in understanding both the 
possible benefits and any negative impacts associated with potential 
changes to how certain foods may or may not credit.

DATES: To be assured of consideration, written information must be 
submitted or postmarked on or before February 12, 2018.

ADDRESSES: The Food and Nutrition Service, USDA, invites the submission 
of the requested information through one of the following methods:
     Preferred method: Submit information through the Federal 
eRulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the online 
instructions for submissions.
     Mail: Submissions should be addressed to Angela Kline, 
Director, Policy and Program Development, Child Nutrition Programs, 
Food and Nutrition Service, P.O. Box 66740, Saint Louis, MO 63166-6740.
    All information properly and timely submitted, using one of the two 
methods described above, in response to this Request for Information 
will be included in the record and will be made available to the public 
on the internet at http://www.regulations.gov. Please be advised that 
the substance of the information provided and the identity of the 
individuals or entities submitting it will be subject to public 
disclosure.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Tina Namian, Branch Chief, Policy and 
Program Development, Child Nutrition Programs, Food and Nutrition 
Service at (703) 305-2590.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

I. Background

Child Nutrition Programs' Nutrition Standards

    One of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Food and 
Nutrition Service's (FNS) highest priorities is to ensure that 
participants in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), School 
Breakfast Program (SBP), Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), and 
Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) (collectively referred to as the 
Child Nutrition Programs) receive wholesome, nutritious, and tasty 
meals. The Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act (NSLA) and the 
Child Nutrition Act of 1966 (CNA) authorize FNS to establish meal 
patterns and nutrition standards (collectively referred to as meal 
patterns) for the Child Nutrition Programs. The NSLA requires FNS to 
develop meal patterns that are consistent with the recommendations of 
the most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans (Dietary Guidelines) 
and current nutrition research.
    The Child Nutrition Programs' meal patterns establish the foods and 
minimum serving sizes that must be served for a meal or snack to be 
reimbursable. The meal patterns are currently based on food groups 
(components), not individual nutrients. A reimbursable meal or snack 
includes a certain amount (or combination) of vegetables, fruits, fluid 
milk, grains, and meats or meat alternates (e.g., protein foods, such 
as chicken, and dairy foods, such as yogurt). Each Child Nutrition 
Program has individualized meal patterns for the various age and grade 
groups that participate in the Program. The meal patterns were created 
to enable children to be self-sufficient by providing the adequate and 
consistent levels of foods and nutrients children need to learn and 
grow, as well as help children build healthy habits that can last a 
lifetime.

Crediting Methodology

    Crediting is the process established by FNS to determine how 
individual foods contribute to the Child Nutrition Programs' meal 
patterns. A food is considered creditable when it meets the minimum 
standards that count toward a reimbursable meal or snack. Generally, 
this means foods are grouped into categories of similar foods which are 
credited in a similar way.
    The main focus of FNS' crediting system is to provide simple 
information that allows Child Nutrition Program operators to (1) easily 
plan menus with foods and quantities that meet the meal patterns, and 
(2) offer foods in a way that encourages healthy habits and

[[Page 58793]]

teaches children how to build balanced meals. Crediting information is 
conveyed through resources such as FNS' Food Buying Guide for Child 
Nutrition Programs and other technical assistance materials.
    A number of factors impact how foods credit toward a reimbursable 
meal. It is critical that crediting decisions be made on the fullest 
range of factors possible to ensure transparency and consistency in the 
crediting process. The overall nutrient profile of a food is a primary 
consideration. Foods in each food component are based on a range of 
nutrients instead of an individual food's nutrient profile. For 
example, foods in the meats/meat alternates component are grouped based 
on a collection of nutrients that include protein, B vitamins, 
selenium, choline, phosphorus, zinc, and copper. Therefore, different 
varieties of meat (e.g., lean beef versus turkey) are not currently 
evaluated separately based on their protein content. The volume or 
weight of the food is also an important factor in making crediting 
determinations. All meats/meat alternates and grains are credited in 
ounces equivalencies. Fruits, vegetables, and fluid milk are credited 
based on volume served.
    In addition, foods that credit toward a reimbursable meal in the 
Child Nutrition Programs sometimes have a Federal standard of identity. 
Standards of identity are established by the U.S. Food and Drug 
Administration (FDA) and the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service 
(FSIS). They are mandatory requirements that determine what a food must 
contain to be marketed under a certain name. For example, for a product 
to be labeled peanut butter, it must meet the standard of identity 
requirements that specify the amount and type of ingredients that may 
be included. Standards of identity assist FNS in crediting because they 
provide a common standard under which specific foods are made. This 
allows FNS to set crediting policy with confidence that products from 
all manufacturers will have the same characteristics and, thus, make a 
consistent contribution to the meal patterns. There are some products 
on the commercial market that do not have an FDA or FSIS standard of 
identity, but have industry-defined standards. FNS first considers 
Federal standards of identity when making crediting decisions. When a 
Federal standard of identity does not exist, then FNS may use industry 
standards for production to better understand the manufacturing 
process.
    FNS also considers the customary use of a product. For example, 
some foods are typically consumed as a snack food and have not been 
considered appropriate for including as part of a meal in the Child 
Nutrition Programs. Therefore, they are currently not creditable. This 
is discussed more in section II. Questions and Answers. Finally, FNS 
considers the role of the Child Nutrition Program in teaching children 
healthy eating habits when making crediting decisions.

Purpose and Scope

    FNS' objective in issuing this Request for Information is to 
receive input from a broad spectrum of stakeholders to assist FNS in 
making informed decisions on how FNS' crediting system can best address 
today's evolving food and nutrition environment, ensure children have 
access to the nutrition they need, and offer excellent customer service 
to those operating and benefitting from the Child Nutrition Programs. 
It is important that FNS' crediting system balances the nutritional 
needs of the Child Nutrition Programs' participants, as recommended by 
the Dietary Guidelines, and the need to offer flexibility and a wide 
range of choices. FNS recognizes that new or reformulated food products 
are regularly entering the food market. These new or reformulated food 
products can offer more choices to menu planners and children.
    FNS is especially interested in understanding both the possible 
benefits and any negative impacts associated with potential changes to 
how certain foods may or may not credit. As such, FNS is seeking 
feedback from all interested stakeholders on the questions listed 
below. Some questions address specific foods due to a high volume of 
interest in those products. However, FNS is open to feedback about the 
creditability of other food products as well (see Questions 20-25) and 
crediting process in general. Additionally, while all comments are 
welcome, FNS is particularly interested in comments that are consistent 
with the current statutory framework for the Child Nutrition Programs.

II. Questions

Factors To Determine Crediting

    FNS currently considers the following factors when making crediting 
decisions:
     Volume or weight of the food. All meats/meat alternates 
and grains are credited in ounces. Fruits, vegetables, and fluid milk 
are credited based on volume served. However, dried fruit credits at 
twice the volume served and raw, leafy greens credit as half the volume 
served. Additionally, tomato puree and tomato paste credit as if they 
were reconstituted, instead of as volume served.
    1. Is it appropriate to continue to credit foods based on the 
volume or weight served, with the few exceptions discussed above? Why 
or why not?
    2. What are the benefits and negative impacts of having different 
crediting values for different forms of vegetables and fruits?
     Overall nutrient profile. Foods in each component are 
based on a range of nutrients instead of an individual food's nutrient 
profile. For example, foods in the meats/meat alternates component are 
grouped based on a collection of nutrients that include protein, B 
vitamins, selenium, choline, phosphorus, zinc, copper, and vitamins D 
and E. Generally, FNS has not considered fortification in the 
creditability of foods.
    3. Should fortification play a role in determining if and how a 
food is credited in the Child Nutrition Programs? Why or why not?
    4. Is the presence of certain nutrients more important than other 
nutrients when determining if and how a food credits in the Child 
Nutrition Programs? Why or why not?
     Federal standards of identity and industry standards of 
production. Many creditable food products in the Child Nutrition 
Programs have Federal standards of identity or industry standards for 
production. Standards of identity assist FNS in crediting because they 
ensure food products with the same name have the same characteristics 
and, therefore, make a consistent contribution to the meal patterns.
    5. If a food product does not have a Federal standard of identity 
or industry standards for production, how could these food products 
credit in the Child Nutrition Programs? Please be as specific as 
possible.
     Customary use of the food product. Some foods are 
generally consumed as snacks and, therefore, have not been considered 
appropriate for service in the Child Nutrition Programs. In other 
cases, the volume of food required to meet the minimum serving size 
would be unreasonably large. In other cases, such products do credit. 
For example, tortillas and tortilla products, such as taco shells, may 
credit as a grain item in the Child Nutrition Programs because in 
certain cultures they are served as the grain component of a meal. 
(Please see below for more information about snack-type foods.)

[[Page 58794]]

    6. Is it appropriate to continue to consider the customary use of a 
product when determining how a food credits in the Child Nutrition 
Programs? Why or why not?
     The role of the Child Nutrition Program in teaching 
children healthy eating habits. Meals and snacks served in the Child 
Nutrition Programs act as a teaching tool for children by visually 
demonstrating how to build a healthy, balanced meal with the key food 
groups and amounts recommended by the Dietary Guidelines. For example, 
although pasta made from lentils has a standard of identity and may be 
used in all Child Nutrition Programs, in order for the pasta to credit 
as a vegetable, it must be served with another vegetable, such as 
broccoli or tomato sauce, to help children recognize the vegetable 
component. Likewise, lentil pasta can credit as a meat alternate if it 
is served with another meat/meat alternate, such as chicken or black 
beans.
    7. What role should such educational considerations play in 
determining the creditability of a food in the Child Nutrition 
Programs?
    8. Are there other factors FNS should consider in determining how 
foods credit in the Child Nutrition Programs? Why or why not?
    9. Are there additional ways FNS can make the crediting process 
more simple, fair, or transparent? Please be as specific as possible.

Foods From the Meat/Meat Alternate Component

    Shelf-stable, Dried or Semi-dried Meat, Poultry, and Seafood 
Snacks, and Surimi: Currently, shelf stable, dried and semi-dried meat, 
poultry, and seafood products, such as beef jerky or summer sausage, 
(collectively referred to as dried meat/poultry/seafood snacks) 
currently do not credit towards the Child Nutrition Programs' meal 
patterns. These foods have a Federal standard of identity that varies 
widely, there is a wide variety of industry standards for production, 
and they are typically seen as snack-type foods. However, FNS 
understands these products may be appealing to some Child Nutrition 
Program operators because dried meat/poultry/seafood snacks are shelf 
stable, work well with alternative meal delivery methods, such as 
breakfast in the classroom and lunches for field trips, and provide 
more choices to menu planners and children. Similarly, surimi, which is 
whitefish that is processed to resemble more expensive seafood and 
labeled as ``imitation,'' such as imitation crab, does not credit 
towards the Child Nutrition Programs' meal patterns. Surimi lacks an 
FDA standard of identity and there is a wide variety of industry 
standards for production. Additionally, foods labeled as ``imitation'' 
may have significantly different nutrition profiles than the foods they 
are meant to replace. To assist reviewers in adequately compiling 
public feedback, please provide separate comments on dried meat/
poultry/seafood snacks, and imitation crab.
    10. Are Child Nutrition Program operators currently offering any of 
these foods as an extra item that does not contribute to the Child 
Nutrition Programs' meal patterns? If so, which ones?
    10a. If yes, how are they being served (e.g., as an extra component 
at snack) and how often?
    11. Should FNS allow any of these foods to contribute to the Child 
Nutrition Programs' meal patterns? Why or why not?
    12. If any of these foods are allowed to contribute to the Child 
Nutrition Programs' meal patterns, how should they be credited? Be as 
specific as possible, such as the volume or weight needed, or a 
specific nutrient content.
    12a. Is there an ingredient or processing method that would qualify 
or disqualify these products?
    13. If any of these foods are allowed to contribute to the Child 
Nutrition Programs' meal patterns, would Child Nutrition Program 
operators incorporate these foods into menus to meet the meats/meat 
alternates requirement? Why or why not?
    13a. If yes, how would they be served (e.g., at snack, as part of a 
reimbursable lunch)?
    14. If any of these foods are allowed to contribute to the Child 
Nutrition Programs' meal patterns, how would this impact the Child 
Nutrition Programs, including its participants and operators? What are 
the potential benefits and negative impacts?
    Yogurt: Yogurt may be used to meet all or part of the meats/meat 
alternates component. It may be plain or flavored, unsweetened or 
sweetened, traditional (non-strained or non-thickened) or Greek or 
Greek-style (high protein, strained or thickened). Four ounces (weight) 
or \1/2\ cup (volume) of traditional or high protein yogurt is credited 
as one ounce equivalent of meat alternate. This crediting was based on 
public comment (62 FR 10187, April 1997) and acknowledges the 
relatively low levels of iron and niacin in yogurt compared to other 
foods from the meats/meat alternates component. Since then, high 
protein yogurt has increased in popularity and availability. As such, 
FNS was asked to consider whether it would be beneficial to allow a 
lesser volume of high protein yogurt to credit toward the meat/meat 
alternate component compared to traditional yogurt. The rationale for 
this request was that high protein yogurt contains a higher level of 
protein per ounce versus traditional yogurt. Currently, crediting has 
not been based on an individual food's nutrient profile, or any one 
nutrient. That is, the contribution of a food towards the meat/meat 
alternate requirement is not based solely on the grams of protein. For 
example, different varieties of meat (e.g., lean beef versus turkey) 
are not evaluated separately based on their protein content.
    15. Are Child Nutrition Program operators currently offering high 
protein yogurt as part of a reimbursable meal?
    16. Should FNS create a separate crediting standard for high 
protein yogurt that is different than the crediting standard for 
traditional yogurt for the Child Nutrition Programs? Why or why not?
    17. If high protein yogurt is allowed to contribute differently to 
the Child Nutrition Programs' meal patterns than traditional yogurt, 
how should high protein yogurt be credited? Be as specific as possible, 
such as the volume or weight needed.
    17a. Is there an ingredient or processing method that could qualify 
or disqualify a particular yogurt from crediting in the Child Nutrition 
Programs (e.g., a particular thickening agent could disqualify a high 
protein yogurt)?
    18. If high protein yogurt is allowed to contribute differently to 
the Child Nutrition Programs' meal patterns than traditional yogurt, 
would Child Nutrition Program operators take advantage of using it to 
meet the meats/meat alternates requirement? Why or why not?
    18a. If yes, how would Child Nutrition Program operators serve it 
(e.g., at snack, as part of a reimbursable lunch)?
    19. If high protein yogurt is allowed to contribute differently to 
the Child Nutrition Programs' meal patterns than traditional yogurt, 
how would this impact the Child Nutrition Programs, including its 
participants and operators, as well as food manufacturers? What are the 
potential benefits and negative impacts?

Other Foods Not Currently Creditable

    In the past, FNS has chosen not to credit a small number of other 
foods in the Child Nutrition Programs because these foods do not meet 
the requirement for any food component in the Child Nutrition Programs' 
meal patterns. For

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various reasons this has occurred, including being considered snack-
type foods, lacking a standard of identity, or because the volume of 
food required to meet the minimum serving size would be unreasonably 
large. For example, foods such as popcorn, vegetable chips (does not 
include chips made from grain such as tortilla chips), bacon, and 
tempeh are currently not creditable for the aforementioned reasons. A 
list of various foods that do not currently credit in the Child 
Nutrition Programs is available in FNS' Food Buying Guide for Child 
Nutrition Programs under ``Other Foods'' (see https://fns.usda.gov/sites/default/files/tn/fbg-section5-other.pdf). Comments on any foods 
currently not creditable in the Child Nutrition Programs are welcome, 
using the following questions as a guide.
    20. Are Child Nutrition Program operators currently offering any of 
these foods as an extra item that does not contribute to the Child 
Nutrition Programs' meal patterns? If so, which ones?
    21. Should FNS allow any of these foods to contribute to the Child 
Nutrition Programs' meal patterns? Why or why not? If so, which ones?
    22. If any of these foods are allowed to contribute to the Child 
Nutrition Programs' meal patterns, how should they be credited? Be as 
specific as possible, such as the volume or weight needed, or a 
specific nutrient content.
    22a. Is there an ingredient, processing method, or nutrient 
standard (e.g., sodium content) that should qualify or disqualify any 
of these foods?
    23. If any of these foods are allowed to contribute to the Child 
Nutrition Programs' meal patterns, would Child Nutrition Program 
operators incorporate them into menus to meet the Child Nutrition 
Programs' meal patterns? Why or why not?
    23a. If yes, how would they be served (e.g., as part of a 
reimbursable snack)?
    24. If any of these foods are allowed to contribute to the Child 
Nutrition Programs' meal patterns, how would this impact the Child 
Nutrition Programs, including its participants and operators, as well 
as food manufacturers? What are the potential benefits and negative 
impacts?
    25. Are there additional products not mentioned in this request for 
information that are currently not creditable, but you would wish to 
provide comments on? Please be as specific as possible.
    FNS appreciates your thoughtful and responsive comments. FNS 
welcomes comments from all interested stakeholders and will consider 
all of them carefully. Your comments are essential to enabling FNS to 
provide first rate customer service to those we serve.

    Dated: December 7, 2017.
Brandon Lipps,
Administrator, Food and Nutrition Service.
[FR Doc. 2017-26979 Filed 12-13-17; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3410-30-P