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CPS Nutrition Guidelines

Chicago Public Schools is committed to providing healthy, high-quality food to all students.

School meals are regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and nutrition standards are guided by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The guidelines below are in alignment or exceed USDA standards for school meals.

Fruits and Vegetables

  • Breakfast features a different fruit daily, at least three fresh fruits a week.
  • Lunch features five different vegetable and fresh fruit options each week.
  • Vegetables from the dark-green, red, orange, beans and peas, and other sub-groups may be substituted for fruits to meet the breakfast fruit requirement.
  • Fresh local produce is to be served twice per month, frozen local produce is to be served once per week, with additional special local promotions at least once a month.
  • Canned fruits are packed in water, 100% juice, or light syrup and are free from high fructose corn syrup.
  • 100% juice is served no more than once a week at breakfast and two times per week at elementary school and three time a week at high school lunch.

Whole Grains

  • 100% of grains served per week, at breakfast and lunch, are whole grain-rich.
  • Whole grain rich items are labeled “WG”. Whole grain-rich foods are those that contain 100% whole grain or at least 50 % whole grain meal and/or flour.


  • Protein must be included as a component in breakfast three times a week for both hot and cold menus.
  • The district supports sustainability and environmental efforts, including values of the Good Food Purchasing Program, by offering hot vegetarian meals daily.
  • Vegetarian protein may include egg, cheese, soy based products such as tofu and soy butter, beans, lentils, sunflower seeds, sunflower butter, peanut butter, hummus and yogurt.
  • Lean, finely textured beef (LFTB), also known as pink slime, is prohibited.
  • All CPS menus are pork-free. For example, items labeled chicken-ham, turkey-ham or turkey-pepperoni are poultry based and do not contain pork. Labels can be shared upon request.
  • When available, chicken and turkey products uphold no antibiotics ever (NAE), certified responsible use of antibiotics (CRAU), or no antibiotics used important to human medicine (NAIHM) standards. NAE products are most favorably considered.

Starchy Foods

  • Starchy vegetables (peas, corn, and potatoes) are limited to one cup per week.
  • Potato items (i.e., French fries, tater tots, hash browns, etc.) are limited to once per week in elementary schools and twice per week in high schools.

Fat, Sugar, and Sodium

  • CPS meals do not include deep-fat frying, MSG, trans fats, or high-fat or high sodium condiments.
  • Water, juice, and frozen juice drinks may not contain artificial or added sweeteners.
  • Sodium levels must meet the most current USDA targets. CPS currently serves meals that are lower than the USDA sodium targets.
  • No sodium is added in meal preparation, and no saltshakers are made available to students.
  • Syrup is limited to one packet per meal.


  • All milk is low-fat or skim and may not contain water, preservatives, neutralizers, rGHB, BST, or other foreign matters.
  • Flavored milk is not served at breakfast in elementary schools.
  • All beverages served or sold must meet the Local School Wellness Policy and CPS Guidelines for Competitive Foods.
  • All students have access to plain drinking water at no cost.


Calories and portion sizes align with USDA standards.

  • Elementary school breakfast calorie range: 350–550
  • High school breakfast calorie range: 450–600
  • Elementary school lunch calorie range: 550–700
  • High school lunch calorie range: 750–850

Snacks and Beverages

  • All food served or sold on school grounds to be consumed during the school day, including items in vending machines, à la carte and school stores, must follow the same high nutrition standards as food served during breakfast and lunch. The school day is defined as midnight to 30 minutes after dismissal.
  • No food may be offered or sold in place of a school meal (i.e. NO pizza parties, Subway parties, etc. in place of lunch).
  • For more information on healthy snack and beverage policies, as well as local school wellness policies on celebrations, fundraisers, and rewards, see Competitive Food Guidance.
  • For questions related to the district’s centralized vending machine program, please email

Local Foods

  • CPS defines local as within 350 miles from Chicago and/or the State of Illinois.
  • Locally sourced fresh frozen items are to be served at lunch at least once each week.
  • Locally sourced fresh items are to be served at least twice each month.
  • Locally raised, no-antibiotic-ever chicken is to be served at least twice each month.

Ingredients Guide for Good School Purchasing

  • CPS aims to reduce ingredients of concern in our school meals. Unwanted ingredients should not be included in newly developed products and eliminated, over time, from existing products. Ingredients on the "Watch List" tend to be highly processed foods and foods with lower nutritional quality.
  • Learn more about these ingredients from the Ingredient Guide for Better School Purchasing [Spanish]

Nutrition Support Services

42 W. Madison St.
Chicago, IL 60602