Whole Grain Resources


Schools and Whole Grains

Schools are serving healthier lunches.

"Feeding a child is a profound act. The foods we invite into our children's bodies determine how their organs will develop and function the rest of their lives."
Dr. Alan Greene

Kids' growing bodies especially need the benefits of healthy whole grains. The foods kids learn to eat at school will help them make healthier choices outside of the school building. The Whole Grains Council supports increased consumption of whole grains in schools worldwide, and provides resources and information to both schools and manufacturers to make this a reality.

One good place to start is with the section of this website called “Whole Grains 101” which defines whole grains, describes their health benefits, and gets you up to speed on whole grain vocabulary.

Once you’ve got the basics, we’re here to help you...



We've put out two collections of foodservice recipes that may be of interest to schools.

Click here to download a PDF (1.3M PDF) of our 2012 collection, including more than 6 dozen recipes from schools, colleges and workplace cafeterias. 

Click here to download a PDF (128K PDF) of our 2007 collection, including 22 foodservice recipes from some of our favorite foodservice providers and chefs.

Access handouts and educational materials

Cast your eyes to the menu at the left, and check out our PDFs of educational materials and our lesson plans, which could be just right for use in your school. We urge you to click the link above and see the whole list -- but here are just a few highlights.

  • Getting Enough Whole Grains (Eng + Sp) -- a great coloring page for lower elementary
  • Grain of the Month Graphics -- for ongoing nutrition education programs
  • Power of 3 whole grain lesson plans for upper elementary kids.

If you'd like to focus in on resources in Spanish, you can find them here.

The Whole Grains Council will also provide posters, buttons and stickers to schools at no charge (within reason!). Check out the options here.


The last few years have seen an explosion of great whole grain products from bread and cereals to cookies, granola bars, crackers and so much more. If a product bears the Whole Grain Stamp, you will know that it offers at least (8g) of whole grain per serving.

Click here to see our database of Whole Grain Stamp products. Click on Foodservice if you'd like to zero in specifically on foods aimed at the foodservice market.

Links to important government documents

Whether you're a school trying to bring more good whole grains to your kids, or a manufacturer trying to make the right whole grain products for schools, here's the information you need, to understand current and (likely) future federal requirements for whole grains in schools.

1) January 2012 New USA School Food Regulations published
In late January 2012, USDA published new nutrition guidelines for the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and the school breakfast program. These new rules require that at least half of all grain foods be "whole grain rich" starting with the 2012-2013 school year, and that two years later, ALL grain foods be "whole grain rich." Download Final Rule for schools.

Note: This document is detailed but a bit impenetrable as it's in Federal Register language. You'll know what you need to know, for the most part, if you download both the documents in #2 below.

2) Clarification of Final Guidelines for 2012-2013 and onward
On April 30, 2012, USDA released a memo that clarified most remaining questions about how the new requirement for "whole grain-rich" foods would be implemented. Download Memo SP 30-2012 from USDA / FNS and read our blog written the same day.

You can also download a Whole Grains Council PDF of information about the new US school food rules that includes the Memo above and a useful FAQ. All your questions answered, in one place. Download PDF here.

3) Clarification of Corn Masa as a Whole Grain
Traditional lime-water processing (nixtamalization) of corn for tortillas, tacos, tamales, etc. results in better bio-availability of many nutrients – but also may result in small amounts of bran loss. This October 2012 USDA FNS Memo SP02-2013 states that nixtamalized corn counts as “whole grain rich” as long as its nutrient profile is similar to whole grain corn.

4) USDA's Food Buying Guide for Child Nutrition Programs: Grains/Breads
This guide explains what constitutes a grain/bread serving in the school lunch program and other child feeding programs through the end of the 2011-2012 school year. During this period, although whole grains were encouraged, they were not yet required on the federal level. Download the Buying Guide Section 3: Grains/Breads now (364K PDF)

Note this FBG does NOT include information to support the new 2012 school food rules. We will post the new Food Buying Guide section on Grains as soon as it is available, or you can check here to see if it's finally been updated. In the meantime, pretty much everything you would need to know is in the clarification memo above (#2).

5) IOM Report: School Meals: Building Blocks for Healthy Children (October 20, 2009)
Curious to see how USDA arrived at the new school lunch requirements for whole grains? You can purchase or read the full report online. There's a lot to it, but if you want to zero right in on the whole grains sections, we recommend you see:

Chapter 7, p. 122: chart showing recommended servings of food groups for menu planning
Chapter 7, p. 124: Box 7-1 explains the "criterion for Whole Grain-Rich foods"
Chapter 7, p. 125-126: further explains how IOM arrived at the criterion
Chapter 10, p. 199-200: details IOM's Recommendation #6 that FDA should require labeling whole grains with grams and that the requirements should get more stringent as kids get more used to whole grains.

6) The HealthierUS School Challenge (HUSSC)
Schools can get a Bronze, Silver, Gold or Gold of Distinction award for making healthy changes in the foods they serve (including serving more whole grains) and the activities they promote. You can learn how this voluntary program works on the USDA website and then download the program's Whole Grain Resource, which goes into more depth on whole grains for the HUSSC program. 

All information on this website is © 2003-2013, Oldways Preservation Trust/Whole Grains Council, unless otherwise noted.