The Nutrition Standards in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs final rule published January 26, 2012, gives schools the option to offer commercially prepared tofu as a meat alternative in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP). United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued Memo SP 16-2012 to inform School Food Authorities (SFAs)/Local Education Agencies (LEAs) how to credit tofu and soy yogurt products as a meat/meat alternate component in meal planning. The provision is effective July 1, 2012.
“While tofu does not currently have a Federal standard of identity, the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) encourage plant-based sources of protein such as tofu. According to the DGA, consumption of a balanced variety of protein foods can contribute to improved nutrient intake and health benefits. Tofu must be commercially prepared and meet the following definition, established in 7 CFR 210.2 for purposes of the school meal programs as “a soybean-derived food…basic ingredients [in tofu] are whole soybeans, one or more food-grade coagulants (typically a salt or an acid), and water.” Noncommercial tofu and soy products are not creditable.
Since school meals are an opportunity for children to learn to eat healthy and balanced meals, foods served should be easily recognized by children as part of a food group that contributes to a healthy meal. Tofu is widely recognized as a meat substitute and can easily be included in the school meal. We recognize that tofu is being used to produce other meat substitute products such as links and sausages made from tofu, which are easily recognizable as meat substitutes and can be credited as such. However, products made with tofu that are not easily recognized as meat substitutes, would not contribute to any component of the reimbursable meal and do not meet the customary and usual function of the meat/meat alternate component. Soft tofu for example, blended into a recipe so that it is not recognizable (i.e. in a soup) or does not represent a meat substitute (i.e. tofu noodles) does not qualify as a meat alternate.
When considering processed tofu products such as links and sausages made from tofu as meat alternates for the reimbursable meal, the tofu ingredient must contain the required 5 grams of protein, which is not shown on a nutrition facts panel. Therefore, the most appropriate way to ensure that the product meets Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) requirements is to request that the product be manufactured under the CN Labeling Program following a federally approved quality control program.
In the school meal programs, 2.2 ounces (1/4 cup) of commercially prepared tofu, containing at least 5 grams of protein, is creditable as 1.0 ounce equivalent meat alternate. Additionally, ½ cup (4.0 fluid ounces) of soy yogurt is creditable as 1.0 ounce equivalent meat alternate. This is consistent with the crediting of dairy yogurt while allowing schools to provide a non-dairy alternative.”
Until the Food Buying Guide for Child Nutrition Programs is updated, SFAs/LEAs can use the following yield information for purchasing and crediting Tofu and Soy Yogurt: Food Buying Guide Specifications for Tofu and Soy Yogurt