The John C. Stalker Institute
of Food and Nutrition

at Framingham State University

Massachusetts Menu Planning Project:
4-Week Cycle Menu Meeting the Current (2012) Meal Pattern for the National School Lunch Program

The Massachusetts Menu Planning Project was planned to position Massachusetts School Nutrition Program Directors to respond effectively to the new federal menu planning standards for the school lunch program effective SY 2012-2013. The project was planned in two phases. Phase I consisted of a menu item preference survey of Massachusetts students which, along with the federal requirements, formed the basis for the menu planning completed in Phase II.

The menu preference survey utilized Survey Monkey and was completed by 4782 students in elementary, middle, and high school to solicit students' opinions on main entrees, vegetables, beans/legumes as well as other quality indicators about the school lunch program. Results of the survey can be found in the Survey tab. In Phase II, using an Expert Panel and a modified Delphi technique, a 4-week selective menu cycle was developed for voluntary use by school nutrition programs in Massachusetts. Using student preferences the menus were constructed first for elementary, followed by the middle and high school. Menu planning integrated the federal meal pattern, the utilization of USDA Foods, and the Panel's menu planning expertise.

The Expert Panel included staff from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Office for Food and Nutrition Programs, school nutrition directors and the following organizations: Action for Healthy Kids, Massachusetts Department of Public Health, New England Dairy Council, Project Bread, School Nutrition Association of Massachusetts, United States Department of Agriculture/Food and Nutrition Service, and a menu planning consultant. Following an intensive two days of initial menu planning, the research protocol included further review of each of the menu cycles with subsequent revisions using the Expert Panel's responses and a resubmission of new revised rounds of menus until consensus was reached.

The final menu cycles were then analyzed with nutrient analysis and the 6 Cents Certification templates were completed. The cycle menus, nutrient analysis, and recipes are being provided to school nutrition directors in Massachusetts via this manual. Six Cents Certification templates for each of the 12 menu weeks are available on the John C. Stalker Institute's website at

Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education     Team Nutrition - USDA