Frequently Asked Questions

Students eating in the cafeteria

How healthy are school meals?

In 2010 Congress passed the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act to update school meal nutrition requirements.  The USDA requires that the new school meal standards reflect the latest “Dietary Guidelines for Americans.” These guidelines are based on independent, expert recommendations from the Institute of Medicine to ensure kids are being fed healthy food while they are at school.  The new meal requirements emphasize whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and low fat dairy products, with limits on sodium, saturated fat, trans fat, and calories.

In addition:

  • No more than 30% of the meal’s calories may come from fat.
  • Less than 10% of the meal’s calories may come from saturated fat.
  • Meals must provide ⅓ of the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of protein, vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, calcium, and calories. 

Where can I find information on nutrition and allergy information for school meals?

The Denver Public Schools SchoolCafé contains the monthly menus with nutrition and allergens listed for each item served for breakfast or lunch.  Last-minute menu changes are occurring frequently and are out of our control due to nationwide food supply chain issues.  Menus in SchoolCafe may not reflect these changes.  We appreciate your patience and understanding during this time.  If you have any questions regarding your school’s menu, feel free to reach out to the cafeteria manager.

Are meals free for all DPS students?

During the 2022/23 school year, all students will be able to receive a complete breakfast for no charge.  Lunches are no longer “free” for all students due to the expiration of federal pandemic waivers.  Households must qualify for their students to receive a “free” lunch.  Students must bring money or have money in their MySchoolBucks accounts to purchase things like second entrees and/or a la carte items. All families are still strongly encouraged to complete an application for their household as the information determines critical funding for Denver Public Schools.

How do you determine what is on the menu?

We have two chefs on staff as well as two Registered Dietitians on staff.  They form a menu planning team and evaluate menu offerings each year.  This year we are pleased to offer a menu for elementary schools and a slightly different one for secondary schools.  Each menu offers two daily rotating hot entrees (one which is a vegetarian entree) as well as one to two other options. Together we offer more than (70) unique entrees.  Our menus meet the USDA nutritional requirements as well as meeting the preferences of our students.  Each year we test and add new items that reflect the cultural diversity of our students.  A few examples include:  chicken shawarma, barbacoa bowl, falafel wrap and chorizo mac and cheese.

Over ten years ago, DPS implemented a scratch cooking program and every kitchen employee attends a 3-week scratch cooking class within a year of their hire.  About 60% of our lunch items are scratch or speed scratch made at the school.  We believe that items made and served at each school are healthier, tastier and more nutritious for DPS students.

Do students have to take all the food and milk items offered?

The National School Lunch and School Breakfast Program are regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture. A complete meal, meeting nutrient content and portion size requirements, allows the Food and Nutrition Services department to receive benefits (money and USDA foods) and is referred to as “a reimbursable meal.”

School meal components include: milk (fat-free or 1%,  unflavored and fat-free flavored );  meat/meat alternate;  bread/grains; fruit; and vegetables.  The most nutritious meals contain all of the components and students have the option to select the items they will eat that meet the component requirements.

At breakfast, schools are required to offer 4 components (some items are 2 components) and students must take at least 3. At lunch 5 components must be offered and students must take at least 3.  Milk is one of the components and students are not required to take it.

How do you determine lunch and recess time?

DPS allows each school leader to determine the class schedule for their school.  Food and Nutrition Services recommends a minimum 30-minute block for lunch, but the final decision is made by the school leader.

How does my family qualify for P-EBT benefits?

The Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program is a federal program, not a DPS program, created to provide additional funds for families to buy food when schools were closed or on a remote or hybrid learning model due to COVID-19.

  • You will not need to apply for P-EBT through a separate application.
  • Your student must be eligible for free or reduced-price school meals and be enrolled in a National School Lunch Program (NSLP) participating school.  Apply for the free or reduced-price school meal program before the end of the school year.
  • Benefits for school-age children were issued starting in May 2021.  Benefits for children under 6 on SNAP will begin to be issued in August.
  • Make sure your address is up-to-date at your child’s school as new P-EBT cards will be mailed to this address.  Eligible families already participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) can expect to have P-EBT benefits automatically loaded on their current EBT card.