Frequently Asked Questions

How many meals does LCPS School Nutrition serve?

We serve meals year-round. All schools with academic activities provide breakfast and lunch to its students during the school year.  Over the summer, select sites are eligible to participate in the Power Fuel summer meal program. In addition, some schools also provide either snacks or dinners as part of the After School Fuel program.

During the 2018-19 school LCPS served and received reimbursement for as follows, including summer school:

  • Breakfast = 1,132,937 million
  • Lunch = 5,089,502 million
  • After School Healthy Snacks= 34, 372
  • After School Fuel= 31,875

What constitutes a Reimbursable Meal at Lunch?

A reimbursable meal at lunch requires that a student select a minimum of three of five meal components (Meat/Meat alternate, Grain, Fruit, Vegetable and Milk); one of the three components must be a ½ cup of fruit or vegetable.

What constitutes a Reimbursable Meal at Breakfast?

A reimbursable meal at breakfast requires that a student select a minimum of three of four meal items (Two Grains, Fruit/Fruit Juice or Vegetable/Vegetable Juice and Milk); one of the three items must be a ½ cup of fruit or vegetable.

How long do students have to eat breakfast and lunch?

Each school administrator governs meal times and length of meal service based on their scheduled curriculum. School Nutrition responds to the needs of the individual school.

Does LCPS offer breakfast at every school?

Yes. All LCPS schools serve breakfast. To ensure all students have easy access to breakfast, multiple options are available; which may include grab and go, breakfast in the classroom, breakfast after the bell, as well as breakfast in the cafeteria.

What determines if a school provides a hot or cold breakfast?

A school either offers breakfast in the classroom (BIC), Traditional breakfast in the cafeteria, or a combination. Storage space, school building designs, and staffing all determine if a school offers hot or cold breakfast in the classroom. Traditional breakfast schools currently offer hot breakfast 3-5 times per week.

Can breakfasts be more protein-rich?

School Nutrition is currently planning to replace a whole grain breakfast option with a protein item a minimum of once per week for Breakfast in the Classroom (BIC). A protein item is already part of the Traditional breakfast program 2-4 days per week in the cafeteria.

Sometimes when my child’s bus is late, they do not have enough time to eat breakfast. How can this situation be remedied?

Each school has a procedure in place to feed breakfast to children that arrive on late buses. Please check with your school principal.

I feel that my child’s breakfast meals contain too much sugar and too many carbs. How can this be addressed?

Carbohydrates are the most readily available source of energy, and a great option for children especially in the morning. A limited quantity of sugar in the blood stream is necessary to stimulate brain function and enhance concentration. That is precisely why our choice of breakfast cereal contains whole-grains and reduced sugar.

How are changes in the menu determined?

Menus are always subject to change. Things that affect menus changes include: product availability, quality of food, individual school circumstances, and factors beyond our control, i.e. global weather conditions that may affect produce.

How do menu changes impact students who may have a health condition that requires close monitoring of food intake?

If a menu change does occur, the School Nutrition Manager informs the School Nurse and the Secretary of the change. School staff are responsible for monitoring the restricted food item for the students at the Point of Service (computer) via an alert notice that pops up any time the student has a Special Dietary Needs form on file. In this case, the School Nutrition Manager will be ready with an alternate food item. Please visit our special meal accomodation tab on our website for more information. 

How are students with allergies accommodated through school nutrition?

School nutrition accommodates all students that have a completed Special Dietary Needs form on file by substituting food items for any documented food allergies and/or food intolerances. Texture modification is also accommodated, but this requires a Physican’s signature. Please visit the food allergy section of our website for additional information. 

I am a school nurse and it is difficult to count carbs when the menu changes. What can be done to make this an easier process?

Any time there is a menu change the School Nutrition Manager should inform their School Nutrition Supervisor and School Nurse in advance. In doing so, the carb count can be calculated before the start of the meal service period. If this is not occurring at your school, please contact School Nutrition 571.252.1010 and ask to speak to Leigh Anne Critzer, MS RD. A supervisor will follow up with the School Nutrition Manager.

Our web menus and mobile menu app provide real-time updates on things such as menu changes, allergen information and nutritionals. You can click the menu in question and under the nutrition report card function, you will see the carb count feature. 

What is Offer vs. Serve?

All LCPS Schools participate in Offer vs. Serve. Offer vs. Serve allows students to select three of five meal components; one of the three components must be a ½ cup of fruit or vegetable. This option gives the student the ability to make their own food choices, which leads to a satisfied dining experience and less food waste. 

How can we work together to minimize waste in the cafeteria?

School Nutrition staff can encourage students to taste new foods, we call it the “two-bite club.” Teachers can role-model healthy eating in school. Parents can expose children to a wide variety of foods at home and while grocery shopping. Offer vs. Serve (O vs. S) gives the student the ability to make their own food choices, so long as they select 3 food components including ½ cup of fruit or vegetable. Offer vs. Serve leads to a more satisfying dining experience and less food waste.

Where does the food come from?

School Nutrition Services works with a Prime Vendor, Merchants Grocery. Like local grocery stores, food comes from a variety of suppliers/manufacturers throughout the nation. Whenever possible food is purchased within a 200- 250 mile radius of the district, such as bread (Schmidt Bakery) and dairy (Lehigh Farms). Local purchases also include produce, like apples, lettuce, watermelon and broccoli when they are in season. 

All of our vendors must go through the official LCPS bid process. For more information on this process and to view current food bids, please visit www.lcps.org

Who prepares the meals?

A School Nutrition Manager Manager, Floating Manager and/or a staff of School Nutrition employees prepare and serve meals daily. We have a team of over 350 members who proudly prepare the meals each day. Our team members are typically in their kitchens by 6:30 am and leave after 2pm each day.

How is the temperature of food monitored?

Temperatures are taken routinely throughout the day: before, during, and after food is cooked. Refrigerator, Milk Cooler and Freezer temps are also taken twice a day.

My child has shared that the meat is not always cooked through. What procedures are in place to make certain food is completely cooked?

All meat items are pre-cooked and flash frozen for food safety purposes. No meats are cooked from a raw state. All meats are thawed and heated on site.

Can food be made more recognizable to students?

Part of the mission of School Nutrition Services is to expose children to a wide variety of food items. We serve a diverse student population. Therefore, the lunch menu strives to embrace the cultural diversity of our division. Children may need to experience a new food a dozen times before they decide to taste it.

What steps are being taken to make foods more familiar and appealing to students?

School Nutrition conducts taste tests to obtain student input on new products. School Nutrition will promote new menus items in advance so students can learn more about the new food items they will be eating. We also post menus and/or photos of the foods items being served at lunch through our social media channels.

You can follow our program on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Youtube via @LCPSCafe.

My child shares that the food is not tasty and is not appetizing.

The food that MPS prepares is mildly spiced. Condiments are offered based on the menu of the day. At the secondary level, Flavor Stations are provided for students to flavor their food based on their individual palate.

Are you taking steps to provide more fresh, as opposed to frozen food?

LCPS currently offers fresh fruits and/or fresh vegetables on the breakfast and lunch menu daily. Students can select unlimited servings of fresh fruit and vegetables with their lunch daily at no additional charge. We also feature freshly prepared salads available daily in all schools. The selection varies by site. Please visit our menus to see the fresh fruit and vegetable options available by grade level.

Is there a way to include choice for students through things like a salad bar?

We currently provide a variety of fresh salads made daily, at all levels, as well as Wraps, and Sub sandwiches. To implement salad bars throughout the district we will need to fill current vacancies, add additional staff, and add equipment.

Why can't you work with more local farmers?

We strive to incorporate as much local product into our program as possible. As mentioned above, all vendors must go through the official bid process outlined at www.lcps.org

Are metrics used to determine what lunches students like best?

School Nutrition also receives daily feedback directly from students and School Nutrition Managers based on meal consumption. We are in the process of transitioning to a new software platform as part of our strategic plan, this will allow us to have real-time updates on meal consumption from students.

How come the younger children (K-5) receive the same portions as the middle school students (6-8)?

USDA allows the School Food Authority (SFA) to select the most appropriate meal pattern to meet the district’s needs. MPS has many schools with combination grades (K-5, K-8, K-12). Therefore, School Nutrition Services has opted to utilize one “overlapping” K-8 meal pattern, for all elementary students. Older students can always purchase additional food items from the a la carte menu, as long as they have money on their meal accounts.

What entities regulate LCPS School Nutrition Programs?

United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) and Loudoun County Health Department.

How are LCPS meals funded?

School Nutrition Services is a self-operated division in LCPS. As such, our program relies on meal sales and the sales of a la carte items. Each year the USDA establishes a meal reimbursement rate that is used to reimburse schools for eligible meals served. This includes breakfast, lunch, snacks, dinners as well as summer school. Each month LCPS submits claims indicting the number of meals served. Typically within a few weeks, LCPS receives reimbursement for the meals served to students. 

Will parents have input going forward?

Yes, there is a designated School Nutrition e-mail that parents can use at any time to provide input: cafe@lcps.org