About the Software Evaluation and Approval Process

Types of Software Approval:

There are two types of software approved by USDA for use in school meal programs:


A. Menu Planning Tools Approved for Certification for Six Cent Reimbursement (certification of compliance software) – This approval is for software designed for School Food Authorities (SFAs) to use in demonstrating compliance with the requirements of the Nutrition Standards in the National School Lunch Program.

Please refer to slide 10 of the following online presentation for more information regarding certification of compliance options:

B. Nutrient Analysis Software Approved for Nutrient Analyses Required in the School Meal Programs. –This approval is for nutrient analysis software designed for use in the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program. This approval replaces the software approval for Nutrient Standard Menu Planning.

Determining the Type of Approval Required for Software:

A. Menu Planning Tools Approved for Certification for Six Cent Reimbursement

Software requires USDA approval for menu planning tools for Certification for Six Cent Reimbursement when the software does any of the following:

    1. Provides food-based meal pattern functionality beyond simple identification of meal pattern components, such as user-identified fruits, vegetables, grains, meats/meat alternates, and milk,
2. Tallies or sums the meal pattern components for a menu,
3. Compares the meal pattern totals to the standard or requirement,
4. Implies quantification or evaluation of the meal pattern components,
5. Provides similar functionality to the FNS certification worksheets,
6. Provides a Simplified Nutrition Assessment (SNA) tool that does not require data entry of all menu items or the use of a nutrient database.

B. Nutrient Analysis Software Approved for Nutrient Analyses Required in the School Meal Programs.

Software requires USDA approval for nutrient analysis when the software does any of the following:

    1. Calculates a nutrient analysis using nutrient data from the Child Nutrition Database or other data source provided by the developer,
2. Provides a report of weighted nutrient analysis,
3. Provides a weighted nutrient analysis of all menu items.
  If the software includes both assessment of the meal pattern contributions and a nutrient analysis, both approvals are required.

The Software Evaluation Team

The primary purpose of the Software Evaluation Team is to conduct the testing and evaluation of commercially-produced nutrient analysis or certification software designed for use with school food service. Developers who wish to obtain USDA approval must submit the program to USDA for evaluation prior to marketing the product to school food authorities and State agencies.

The Software Evaluation Team consists of the Nutrition Software Evaluation Coordinator and the Certification Software Evaluation Coordinator, as well as nutritionists at USDA's Food and Nutrition Information Center (FNIC) and Food and Nutrition Service (FNS).

The team tests and evaluates commercially-produced nutrient analysis and menu planning software to verify that the USDA specifications and requirements have been met. The primary goals are the calculation of accurate nutrient analyses and meal pattern contributions of school meals. Before software can be approved by USDA, all required functions must be incorporated into and working correctly in the software.

For more information on the software evaluations and approvals, please refer to the following websites:

For information about nutrient analysis software approval:

For information about certification of compliance software approval:

For more information about Nutrition Standards in School Meals:

If you have further questions or are planning to submit your software for evaluation and approval contact:

Software Evaluation Coordinator
Nutrition and Technical Assistance Branch
Child Nutrition Programs
Food and Nutrition Service, USDA
3101 Park Center Drive
Alexandria, VA 22302

Contact via E-Mail