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School Nutrition

Tennessee's School Nutrition program is responsible for providing nutritious meals and snacks for students in public and private schools, as well as residential and child care institutions. School Nutrition administers the USDA's National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program and Afterschool Snack Program across the state. All public schools in Tennessee are on the National School Lunch Program, which provides nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches to children each school day.

Nutrition standards set forth by the USDA require most schools to increase the availability of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free and low-fat fluid milk in school meals; reduce the levels of sodium, saturated fat, and trans fat in meals; and meet the nutritional needs of school children within their calorie requirements.

For a detailed description of these federal requirements, see the Nutrition Standards in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs.

For Parents

Learn more about free and reduced-priced meal eligibility and read answers to frequently asked questions.

Community Eligibility Provision

For information on CEP, including a toolkit for districts and frequently asked questions, visit the CEP page.

Additional Information

Important contact information:

  • The Department of Education COVID-19 hotline is available for district leaders 629-888-5898 or toll free 833-947-2115. The hotline is available Monday-Friday 6:30 am – 4:30pm CST. Or, email: 
  • For nutrition program-specific questions, contact the Department’s Nutrition Hotline Number at (800)-354-3663. It is available daily from 7:00 am to 4:30 pm CST. Or, email
  • Tennessee Department of Health has launched a Tennessee Coronavirus Public Information Line in partnership with the Tennessee Poison Center. The hotline number is 877-857-2945 and will be available from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. CST daily.
  • The Department of Education has disseminated guidance to district leaders to best support their students, schools and communities.



Current waivers in place which allow:

  • School Food Authorities (SFAs) may provide school meals to all children under the age of 18 years through the Seamless Summer Option (SSO) during unanticipated school closures at school and non-school sites in area eligible locations.
  • There is also the flexibility to feed children utilizing non-congregate feeding sites that’s good through August 31.
  • Meal time requirements have been waived, which means multiple meal types can be served during the same service time frame through September 30 for SSO, and through August 31 for the NSLP.
  • USDA has released a nationwide waiver that allows SFAs to vary from meal pattern requirements based on food supply availability during the public health emergency. This flexibility will be addressed on a case by case basis and SFAs must contact the state director with any requests on the designated form. This flexibility is in effect until July 31, 2020, and will be reassessed on a rolling basis during this public health emergency.
  • USDA has released a nationwide waiver that allows parents or guardians to pick up meals on behalf of their child. This may only be implemented if SFAs are operating under the non-congregate feeding waiver. If implemented, SFAs must have plans in place to ensure accountability and program integrity. This flexibility remains in effect until August 31, 2020, or until the expiration of the federally declared public health emergency, whichever is earlier.
  • A nationwide waiver is now in place that grants the state agency to waive area eligibility requirements on a case by case basis. Typically, SFAs may only service meals at sites which meet the area requirements, where at least 50% of children must qualify for free or reduced-price meals. SFAs must complete this form and submit to for approval. Tennessee’s request to waive area eligibility requirements can be found here and approval can be found here. This flexibility remains in effect until August 31, 2020, or until the expiration of the federally declared public health emergency, whichever is earlier.
  • Based on the July 1, 2017, implementation of the local school wellness policy regulations, the first triennial assessments are due June 30, 2020. However, FNS recognizes that in light of the current public health emergency, providing a revised deadline for completion of these requirements is vital to ensure SFAs can continue to focus on providing meals. The waiver provides a new first triennial assessment deadline of June 30, 2021. The state agency has elected to utilize this nationwide waiver. SFAs may choose to accept the new deadline and complete their first assessment by June 30, 2021. If an SFA wishes to accept the new deadline they must inform the state agency by June 30, 2020 by completing this form and submitting to and copying their regional consultant on the email.


Available resources:

Summer Feeding Options

School Nutrition COVID-19 FAQs

Updates on Coronavirus

School Closure Toolkit: School Nutrition

Nutirition Guidance Update March 18, 2020

District Operations Summary

General Guidance and Best Practices

Meal Service Best Practice Examples

Regional Nutrition Consultants

Area Eligibility Map

How to Submit a Seamless Summer Application

Farmer Resources for School Nutrition Programs

*Disclaimer: Vendors on this list were identified through an unrestricted “all call” and entries are added on a rolling basis. Listed vendors are not endorsed nor vetted by the Tennessee Department of Education. Districts must follow federal, state, and local requirements for engaging with vendors.

New School Food Authority/Local Education Agency Process Chart

   The chart below is meant to guide the process for new school food authorities (SFAs) to prepare their site(s) for the 2019-20 school year.

Process Step Required Forms and Topics Due Date
Step 1: Contact the state agency (SA) to express interest in school nutrition programs. Review the required information by reviewing the chart. Jan. 31
Step 2: Go to the Tennessee Meals Counting and Claiming homepage and select the "Interested in Applying?" link. Complete the prescreening questionnaire with SA with this link. Feb. 15
Step 3: Complete mandatory phone appointment with SA. The call can include the school nutrition supervisor and the director of schools. The Tennessee Department of Education's School Nutrition Hotline can be reached at (800) 354-3663. Send in W-9 and Automated Clearing House (ACH) form. Program requirements: More information can be found at: Feb. 15
Step 4: Complete mandatory first site visit with SA.   March 15
Step 5: Submit the vended meal contract draft to SA for review and approval.
(Only applies to vended meal service)
Vended meal contract prototype located at This is located under "Vended School Meal Service Prototype Invitation for Bid." Feb. 15-March 15
Step 6: After SA approves the vended meal contract, the SFA will advertise the bid.
(Only applies to vended meal service)
Send to SA for approval:
  • Vended Meal Contract
  • Contract Attachments
  • Site Data Form
  • Delivery schedule
  • 21-day cycle menu breakfast and lunch
  • Nutrition standards and meal pattern
  • Claim for reimbursement data, if applicable
March 31
Step 7: Submit Pre-contract Award Summary Sheet and documents to SA.
(Only applies to vended meal service)
  • Pre-contract Award Summary Sheet will be provided to you by SA.  
  • Pre-contract Award Summary Sheet
  • Required documents (listed on Pre-contract Award Summary Sheet)
May 15
Step 8: Attend mandatory meeting with SA at the school nutrition office. SA will arrange the meeting by May 31. Meeting will be held at: Andrew Johnson Tower, 710 James Robertson Parkway, Nashville, TN 37243.   Topics to be discussed:
  • Tennessee: Meals, Accounting, and Claiming (TMAC) site
  • Direct Certification download
  • Community Eligibility Provision (CEP)
May 31
Step 9: Submit Post-contract Award Summary Sheet and documents to SA.
(Only applies to vended meal Service)
May 31
Step 10: Submit Certification of Compliance worksheets to SA for approval. June 1-30
Step 11: Complete mandatory second site visit with SA.
  • Meal counting and claiming
  • Meal pattern
  • Eligibility/CEP
Aug. 15*    

*If the potential SFA starts school after the listed date, the mandatory site visit must take place during the first week of operation.

If the potential SFA fails to file any of the above forms by July 31, the SFA may not be approved to operate the National School Lunch Program for the upcoming school year.

The Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act, as amended by the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (HHFKA), requires a unified accountability system designed to ensure that participating school food authorities (SFAs) comply with National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP) requirements. The Act also requires an accountability system that conducts Administrative Reviews to evaluate Program requirements for NSLP and SBP during a three-year cycle. A summary from each district's most recent administrative review can be found below.

Decatur County


For Parents

School nutrition programs are an economical way to provide a significant amount of the student's daily nutritional requirements.

For Teachers

Good nutrition increases students willingness and ability to learn.

For Schools

Nutrition is an integral part of education, contributing substantially to the health and well-being of students.

For the Local Economy

School nutrition programs act as a vast market for locally purchased foods, supplies, and equipment, as well as providing additional jobs in the community.

For Farmers

School nutrition programs utilize available commodities in the lunch and breakfast meals.

Many schools and districts in Tennessee participate in the state's Local Foods for Local Schools program, partnering with the community's local food producers to serve locally grown foods in school cafeterias.

The Tennessee School Nutrition Program is pleased to announce the following “Best Practice Award” winners for the 2016-17 school year.

School Food Authority School/System Area of Submission

Clarksville-Montgomery County

Clarksville-Montgomery County Schools    

Fiscal Management

Giles County

Pulaski Elementary

Customer Service/Working Smarter, Not Harder

Meigs County

Meigs County High School           

Increasing participation in school lunch, breakfast or afterschool snacks

Milan Special School District

Milan Special School District

Increasing participation in school lunch, breakfast or afterschool snacks

Robertson County

Robertson County Schools

Leadership Development

Shelby County

Shelby County Schools

Farm to School Programs

Pulaski Elementary School, Pulaski, Tennessee

Customer Service/ Small SFA Category

Pulaski Elementary School, in Giles County, has been recognized for their Breakfast in the Classroom program. The “Super Lunch Lady” makes frequent appearances during classroom meal time and during lunch to ensure that students are getting nutritious meals. With the help of excellent customer service, and the “bonding” time Breakfast in the Classroom creates, breakfast participation has increased by 45% since implementation of the program. Teachers, students, and parents view school breakfast time as “family” time, harvesting a positive start to the day at this elementary school.

Milan Special School District, Milan, Tennessee

Increasing Participation in School Lunch, Breakfast, or Snacks/ Small SFA Category

Milan Special School District has implemented multiple crowd pleasers among the students. For example, Milan Middle School has a daily salad bar, which has increased fresh vegetable consumption by 50%. Along with increased vegetable consumption from the salad bar, the fruit bar has also been a hit with students, increasing fruit consumption by 56%.  Not only is the district offering more fresh produce, but the visual displays have made an impact as well and are highlighted through social media. The increased social media posts highlighting the great work of school nutrition has aided the increased participation. In addition to offering a larger variety of foods, Milan Special School District has partnered with special populations to gain knowledge of student preferences and to provide valuable opportunities for students while working to increase overall participation.