SANA Urges USDA To Credit Soy Tempeh Under School Lunch Program 

WASHINGTON — The Soyfoods Association of North America (SANA) recently requested that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food & Nutrition Service add soy tempeh to the list of creditable food products provided under Child Nutrition Programs.

“Crediting” is the process for the Food & Nutrition Service to approve a food item for reimbursement. To claim federal reimbursement, Child Nutrition Program operators must serve meals and snacks that meet the minimum meal pattern requirements of the program. A food is considered creditable when it meets the minimum USDA standards.

Crediting soy tempeh is supported by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which encourage variety in all eating patterns within each food group. Crediting soy tempeh gives schools the opportunity to increase the variety of proteins available to their students while catering to diversifying cultures and diets.

“Soy tempeh is a delicious and incredibly flexible food,” said John Cox, Executive Director of SANA. “Soy tempeh can be flavored, fried or baked, and it can be served as nuggets, fingers, sandwich patties or turned into ground tempeh and used in many dishes including tacos, burritos, pizzas, stews or soups.  It’s amazing to me that tempeh hasn’t excited American tastes yet.”

Tempeh is a well-known fermented product that is a major protein source for consumers in Southeast Asia. Soy tempeh is a dense soybean cake consisting primarily of whole soybeans that have been dehulled, soaked and cooked, and then fermented with water, fermentation culture (sometimes called “tempeh culture”) and vinegar or a similar acidic ingredient.

While soy tempeh and tofu are both derived from soybeans, they are quite different. Because tempeh, unlike tofu, uses whole soybeans, it retains soybean proteins, amino acids, natural fiber, lipids and carbohydrates. According to The Soy Nutrition Institute, soy protein’s digestibility is higher than beef and much higher than other plant proteins such as rice and wheat protein.

SANA’s recent submission to USDA specified “soy tempeh” because tempeh-style fermentation is sometimes used with other legumes or grains besides soybeans, which affects the protein content and quality of the food. SANA’s comments to USDA were in response to a Request for Information on crediting issues. SANA’s comments to USDA can be read here.