No Kid Hungry will continue updating this page as new guidance and resources become available.

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Program Options & Nationwide Waivers
Meals outside for COVID

This section breaks down the waivers, program options, and service models currently available and provides an update on the status of waivers going forward.

Congress has not extended USDA’s authority to issue nationwide child nutrition waivers beyond June 30, 2022. As a result, the USDA cannot issue or extend nationwide waivers throughout Summer 2022 or for School Year 2022-2023. We continue to advocate for Congress to address this issue, and we are awaiting USDA guidance on expectations and potential areas of flexibility. In the meantime, we encourage operators to plan as if waivers will not be available. For schools, we encourage thinking about the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) as part of that planning since it is likely the best option for continuing to offer meals at no cost to all students during School Year 2022-2023.

Unless noted otherwise below, the waivers available for this school year, 2021-2022, will remain available through June 30, 2022. Please note that the only waivers available for the SFSP relate to unanticipated school closures, so those waivers are not available once the regular school year ends. The waivers still available include:

  • Available through the end of School Year 2021-2022
    • Allow Schools to Utilize the Seamless Summer Option (SSO) through SY 21-22
    • Allow Non-Congregate Meal Service in the SFSP during Unanticipated School Closures in SY 21-22
    • Waive Meal Times Requirements in the SFSP during Unanticipated School Closures in SY 21-22
    • Allow Parents and Guardians to Pick Up Meals Served through SFSP during Unanticipated School Closures in SY 21-22
    • Waive Area Eligibility Requirements for Service Institutions Operating the Summer Food Service Program during Unanticipated School Closures in SY 21-22
  • Available through June 30, 2022
    • Allow SFSP Reimbursement Rates for SSO Meals in SY 2021-2022
    • Waive Area Eligibility in the Afterschool Programs (CACFP & NSLP) and for Family Day Care Home Providers
    • Provide Flexibility for School Meal Programs Administrative Reviews of SFAs Operating Only the SSO in SY 21-22
    • Allow Offer Versus Serve (OVS) Flexibility for Senior High Schools in the NSLP
  • Available for the Duration and to the Extent Needed (no longer than June 30, 2022) 
    • Allow Non-congregate Feeding in the School Meal Programs & CACFP
    • Allow Meal Service Time Flexibility in the School Meal Programs & CACFP
    • Allow Parents and Guardians to Pick Up Meals for Children School Meal Programs & CACFP
    • Meal Pattern Flexibility Available as Approved by the State Agency 
    • Allow Specific Meal Pattern Flexibility in the School Meals Programs & CACFP
      • A broader meal pattern waiver is available for schools operating SSO through September 30, 2021
      • Aside from the sodium limit waiver for the School Meals Programs, state agencies have discretion to determine the justification needed for a waiver.
  • Available through 30 Days After the End of the Federal Public Health Emergency
    • On-Site Monitoring in the School Meal Programs & CACFP

The resource Meeting Student Needs and Your Bottom Line in SY21-22 walks through program options available to reach kids with nutritious meals at no charge across the day and throughout the school year, whether they're in school full-time or continuing with virtual learning. It also covers possible service models and highlights two districts as they plan to serve all students during SY21-22.

For more information on the waivers available for School Year 2021-2022, the Summary of Current COVID-19 Child Nutrition Response Waivers includes the latest guidance.

Resources

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Summer 2022
boy holding his meal

The Summer Food Service Program and NSLP Seamless Summer Option provide nutritious meals to children when school is not in session. Find related resources and updates here.

As of today, USDA does not have the authority to extend or issue nationwide waivers throughout Summer 2022. However, state agencies can request waivers on behalf of sponsors in their state. Please reach out to your state agency to learn what flexibilities may be available in your state. For more details on the status of waivers and expiration dates, see the section on Program Options & Nationwide Waivers.

Anticipating changes to your summer meals program? Be sure to communicate program changes early and often with families. Check out our Toolkit for Communicating Summer Meals 2022 Operations Changes
to Parents and Families
 for sample language to include in letters to families, on flyers, and over social media. The Toolkit includes drafted language for programs changing operations and ceasing operations (available in English and Spanish!). 

Many sites across the country will be transitioning to congregate meal service where children eat their summer meals onsite. Feeding a Crowd - Tips for Congregate Meal Service provides strategies to make congregate meal service easier for site staff and improve the experience for children and families. Check it out to learn how to create a welcoming and fun environment and also learn tips for communicating program requirements to site staff and families. 

In order to operate an open meal site this summer, sites must be determined area eligible. Determining if your site is area eligible can be complicated. Navigating Area Eligibility in Summer and Afterschool Meals Program provides information on how to determine if a site is area eligible, the types of data that can be used to make that determination, and options for meal service if a site is not area eligible. It also outlines flexibilities available for what data can be used to determine eligibility for summer 2022 and the 2022-2023 school year.

Need a refresher of what summer meals operations look like without waivers? This resource, SFSP & SSO Requirements - Comparison Chart of Usual vs. COVID-19 Waiver Operations, briefly reviews program provisions of waiver vs. traditional summer meals operations.  

Check out No Kid Hungry's Summer Webinar Series: School's Out, Food's In to learn more:

  • March 30th 3-4pm EST - Planning for Summer: Operation Strategies Without Waivers 
    As it stands today, waivers and flexibilities previously available during the pandemic in the Summer Meals Program (SFSP and SSO) will not be available for summer 2022. On this webinar, No Kid Hungry will share the latest regulatory update, and Donna Martin, Director of School Nutrition at Burke County Public School District (GA), and Melissa Weissler, Senior Manager of Child and Community Nutrition at Operation Food Search (MO), will talk through their plans and strategies for operating summer meals without waivers.
    Recording Available Here
  • April 13th 1-2pm EST - Reaching Hard to Reach Communities: Leveraging innovation and Partnership
    Reaching hard-to-reach communities requires innovation and partnership. This webinar will feature Lynsi Barnhill of Paducah Public Schools, Constance Moore of the YMCA of Memphis and the Mid-South, and Ceara Chirovsky of St. Mary’s Food Bank. The speakers all have experience feeding rural and hard-to-reach communities using innovative models like mobile meal programs, freeze and thaw programs, and more. They will also discuss how they approach building relationships and trust with communities - the foundation for successful summer meals programs.
    Recording Available Here
  • April 26th 3-4pm EST - Summer Meals 101: Back to Basics & USDA Update 
    Ready to go back to basics? Join No Kid Hungry for a refresher on “usual” (non-waiver) summer meals operations and a regulatory update from USDA. Summer 2022 will look different from summer 2020 and 2021 operations. Waivers previously used to serve grab & go and bulk style meals are no longer available. This webinar will remind providers of summer meals “basics” as we approach summer 2022 operations. There will be time at the end of the presentations for audience Q&A with No Kid Hungry and USDA.
    Recording Available Here
  • May 17th 2-3pm EST - Promoting Your Summer Meals Program
    Raising awareness about your summer meals program is key to ensuring children and families have access to meals all summer long. Whether you are a sponsor, site, or advocate, you have a role in spreading the word about summer meals. On this webinar, you will hear from Lynsi Barnhill from Paducah Public Schools and Sara Seelmeyer from the United Way of King County on how they promote their summer meals programs.
    Recording Available Here
  • June 9th 3-4pm EST - Evaluating and Incorporating Feedback Into Your Summer Meals Program: Tips and promising practices
    Using evaluation and feedback can help your summer meals program be a success. Join No Kid Hungry to learn how three summer meals sponsors incorporate site, community, and kid’s feedback to improve their programs. You’ll hear from Eugenie Sellier from Feeding Alabama, Nicole Lowe from the YMCA of Greater Seattle, and Constance Moore from the YMCA of Memphis and the Mid-South.
    Recording Available Here
  • July 20th 3-4pm EST - Thinking 365: Transition your summer meals program to year-round through CACFP At-risk
    Summer is almost over, but your meal program doesn’t have to be! Listen in for the final webinar in No Kid Hungry’s School’s Out, Food’s In summer webinar series. In this webinar, you will learn from program sponsors about how they successfully transition their summer program to year-round operations using CACFP At-risk Afterschool Meals. Presenters include Eugenie Sellier from Feeding Alabama, Melissa Weissler from Operation Food Search, and Walter Campbell from Charleston County School District.
    Register Here

Additional resources and trainings on summer meals can be found on our Summer Meals program page including a Summer Meals Outreach Toolkit where you can download resources and language to spread the word about the availability of summer meals in your community!

Resources

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Engaging the School Community
COVID meal distribution

The resources in this section will help you engage your school community to support the success of your school meals program.

For Families

Asking families for their feedback about meal service can help you make informed decisions for your program and ultimately increase participation. Gathering Feedback From Families: Using a Survey to Inform Meal Service details the use of a survey to gather feedback from families. Within this resource you will find general guidance and a link to a sample survey so that you can see those recommendations in action.

In early 2021, No Kid Hungry engaged FM3—a California-based company that conducts opinion research—to complete a national series of discussion boards and surveys with parents and students in low- and middle-income households to assess their views of school meals, and to assess their reactions to key messaging designed to encourage greater participation. The goal of the research was to understand, as we begin to emerge from the coronavirus pandemic, what opportunities may exist to increase parent and student engagement with school meals – both in and out of session. Recommendations for Communicating with Students & Families About School Meals highlights the key recommendations to emerge from the research.

For Educators & Administrators

The Importance of School Meals explains why school meals are so critical for students and how school meals programs operate. It also offers ideas on how to engage key staff within the schools, from teachers to custodians, in order to make new meal service models successful. 

How School Meals Can Support Social-Emotional School Climates highlights how expanding participation in the school meals program can nourish students while simultaneously building social-emotional learning skills.

The case study, Adapting School Nutrition During COVID-19, also shares best practices from Vaughn Next Century Learning Center on how they successfully engage the broader school community in the design and implementation of their school meals program.

Resources

Afterschool Meals
School Breakfast
Schools as Nutrition Hubs
Meal pick-up during COVID

The Importance of School Meals

School meals are essential to student health and academic success, they support the local economy, and they are critical in the new school year as families may continue to struggle financially due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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School Lunch
Summer Meals
Alicia Escoto serves meals to students

Adapting School Nutrition During COVID-19

Vaughn Food Services continues to reach kids during COVID-19 by collaborating with families and the entire Vaughn staff, and by serving meals that kids love.

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Summer Meals
Boys eating breakfast in the classroom

Recommendations for Communicating with Students & Families About School Meals

This resource highlights the key recommendations to emerge from research conducted in 2021 with parents and students in low- and middle-income households to assess their views of school meals, and to assess their reactions to key messaging designed to encourage greater participation.

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How Community Eligibility (CEP) Can Help
Parent and student taking grab n go meal

The Community Eligibility Provision enables eligible schools to serve free meals to all students, regardless of income. Adopting CEP in SY22-23 can help your school district continue feeding all students at no cost.

The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) is a special school meal funding option of the National School Lunch Act that enables schools to provide free meals to all students. Under CEP, school meals are available to all students at no cost to them, just like textbooks and transportation. As pandemic waivers expire, school districts can use CEP to continue feeding all students breakfast and lunch at no cost.

At this time, all of the usual CEP deadlines still apply, including the April 1st deadline for data used to calculate a schools identified student percentage and the June 30th election deadline. However, some states have applied and have been granted CEP deadline extensions. Please check with your state agency to learn what deadlines apply in your state. For more CEP deadlines, see this USDA memo and Planning & Implementation Guidance

CEP benefits students and schools. Kids get free meals, and when a child’s nutritional needs are met, they do better in school. CEP can reduce financial strain at home for families facing economic hardship due to COVID-19 and/or systematic inequalities. CEP promotes equity by eliminating the out-of-pocket costs for families and reducing stigma for school meals programs.

CEP is good for schools, too. It reduces administrative burden by eliminating school meals applications, counting and claiming by fee category, and unpaid meal charges. School nutrition staff are able to streamline meal service, making it easier to implement innovative service models, like meals in the classroom and hybrid schedules. These benefits taken together often result in CEP generating revenue for school nutrition budgets - CEP schools eliminate many overhead costs, eliminate school meal debt, and increase participation. Moreover, CEP is a 4-year cycle, meaning that adopting CEP this year can help a school's nutrition budget recover post-pandemic.

What do I do if I can't implement CEP in all of my schools?
Sometimes, not of all the schools in a district are eligible for CEP or CEP is not financially viable district-wide. In these cases, districts can still benefit from implementing CEP is some of their schools. This is sometimes called site-based or partial CEP. Learn more with Tips for Making Site-based/Partial CEP Work.

Learn more about CEP, including eligibility and applications, program operations, and FAQs, on our dedicated CEP page and download this one-page program overview. Also be sure to check out MealsCount - an online tool that can analyze your district's data to optimize the program - and the No Kid Hungry CEP Calculator - a financial and grouping analysis tool. Have questions or need extra support? Email us at bestpractices@strength.org - we are here to help.

Check out our CEP Week videos! These short (10-15 minute) videos highlight important aspects of electing CEP. What will you learn?

  • Day 1 – Is CEP Right for You?
  • Day 2 – CEP Financials
  • Day 3 – CEP and Your Central Business Officer 
  • Day 4 – Maximizing ISP
  • Day 5 – Measuring CEP Success

Learn More about CEP in FRAC's CEP Webinar Series

  • CEP Kickoff Webinar SY2022-2023
    Community Eligibility season is upon us! The past two school years have highlighted the value of offering school meals at no charge to all students. As we look ahead to the 2022-2023 school year and the potential return to normal school nutrition operations, a few things are clear: community eligibility offers school districts and schools the opportunity to provide free breakfast and lunch to all students for four school years. Join this webinar as we discuss basics and benefits of community eligibility, along with resources and tools available to aid in the adoption process.
  • CEP: Overcoming the Loss of School Meal Application Data
    Community eligibility eliminates the need to collect school meal applications, which have long been used for a wide range of education and funding purposes. Join us for this webinar to learn how schools across the country have been able to successfully overcome the loss of this data in order to offer free meals to all of their students. FRAC is joined by Todd Stephenson, U.S. Department of Education; Fatimah Abdullahi, U.S. Department of Education; and Kristin Blagg, Urban Institute.
  • Making CEP Work with Low ISPs and Partial District Implementation
    The pandemic has highlighted the value of offering school meals at no charge to all students. Community Eligibility provides an excellent opportunity for high poverty schools to offer free breakfast and lunch to all students beyond the 2021-2022 school year. The community eligibility reimbursement formula determines what percent of meals are reimbursed at the free and paid rates. Thousands of schools and districts across the country have experienced the benefits of community eligibility by participating with ISPs below 60 percent and by having individual schools participate within a district. Watch this webinar to learn about the strategies and resources available for making community eligibility work with low ISPs and/or partial district implementation.
  • June 9th at 3pm EST - Get Your CEP Questions Answered
    As your school or district considers Community Eligibility for the upcoming school year, join us and our panel of experts and stakeholders from a variety of backgrounds to get your questions answered. We will be answering questions on grouping, eligibility, maximizing reimbursement rates, making CEP work financially, setting ISPs, direct certification, and a variety of other topics. We encourage attendees to submit any questions they may have beforehand using the form here.
  • Upcoming webinars can be found here!

Resources

CEP
Boys eating breakfast in the classroom

Providing Universal Free School Meals

Compare three options for providing universal free school meals: the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), Provision 2, and non-pricing.

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School Nutrition Employee Smiles While Preparing Food

Strategies for Finding Success with CEP

These strategies are designed to help you maximize the benefits of CEP by improving meal participation rates, increasing your Identified Student Percentage (ISP), and generating revenue with savvy business practices.

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Meal Service Operation Resources
Cafeteria Line in COVID

The resources in this section were designed to help school nutrition staff plan for meal service operations under a variety of scenarios.

Equipment Tips

Our Equipment List for Meal Service SY21-22 highlights new and existing equipment items that can be used to serve meals to students in classrooms, hallways, the cafeteria, or to go home throughout the existing pandemic environment. Equipment Tips for Meal Service During the 2021-2022 School Year offers guidance as schools consider how to handle meal delivery, in or to the classroom. Strategies to Increase Meal Participation during COVID-19 features a variety of ways to increase meal participation shared from FNS leaders across the nation. You will find practices to engage your school community members, increase communication practices, marketing strategies and more!

Feeding Remote Learners

Serving virtual students is an important way to ensure students are fed and stay connected to their school community. The Serving Remote Learners: Meal Service Model Guide outlines the steps school districts can take to determine the need for virtual student meal service, evaluate their capacity to provide meals, and choose a service model(s) that best fits their community needs. Tips & Considerations for Serving Remote Learners is a one-page quick guide on how to serve remote learners. 

Alternative Meal Service Models

Alternative meal service models, such as Grab n’ Go and meals in the classroom, can provide more flexibility for students, leading to increased meal participation. These alternative service models use portable equipment that enable schools to serve food with the same high-quality meal standards and variety as traditional cafeteria dinning. Additionally, alternative meal service models can be utilized anytime, not just during emergency situations, to ensure students are able to access meals conveniently and efficiently during the school day. Learn more with Increasing Participation Through Alternative Meal Service Models.

Navigating Supply Chain Disruptions

Supply chain disruptions can create challenges with procurement, menu planning, and service. Watch the Navigating Supply Chain Disruptions webinar to hear tips and advice from three school nutrition professionals managing disruptions in their schools. Also check out Tips for Navigating Supply Chain Disruptions which provides tips for managing supply chain related issues including driver, food, and equipment shortages in a quick one-page document. Communication is an important part of navigating supply chain disruptions. Check out No Kid Hungry's Materials for Communicating with Your School Community for sample language, in both English & Spanish, that you can use as is or customize to best fit the needs of your school or district. Just copy & paste! Also, check out SNA's video, "Supply Chain Issues & School Meals - What Parents Need to Know" available in English and Spanish

Rural schools and community providers utilize their agrarian geographies to bring local fruits, vegetables, and even meats and eggs to their meal programs. This close connection to their local farmers and ranchers has created a system that can overcome common supply chain disruptions, invest in their local economy, and create engaging educational opportunities. Learn more about how you can connect with your local food system in No Kid Hungry's Rural Communities Leading the Way: Introducing Local Foods to Meal Service resource. 

Addressing Staffing Shortages

With nationwide labor and supply shortages impacting every corner of the economy, many school districts have been utilizing creative and innovative solutions to recruit and retain more kitchen staffers and persevere through this challenging time. No Kid Hungry highlighted the best and promising practices gathered from around the country in Staffing Up: Strategies for Working Through Labor Shortage Challenges. For example, some districts have found success by recruiting volunteers such as high school and college students who have the flexibility to add a few hours per week to help prep or serve school meals, as well as add valuable experience to their resume. Other districts have been able to increase compensation for school nutrition staffers, or provide bonuses for their hard work. We've seen districts incorporate savvy advertising practices to their job recruitment process, such as connecting with local restaurants and food businesses, advertising open positions throughout the community, and hiring parents of kids who go to the district. And finally, finding creative ways to make the most of staff on hand by adjusting staff schedules to meet food service needs, changing the menu to accommodate staff availability, and investing in high quality equipment, such as packaging equipment, to lessen the load of food service staffers, are all tactics districts have used to meet their food service needs while navigating staffing shortages. 

Resources

Afterschool Meals
Coronavirus
Rural Communities
School Lunch
School Breakfast
Summer Meals
SN staff

Tips for Navigating Supply Chain Disruptions

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School Nutrition Employee Smiles While Preparing Food

Staffing Up: Strategies for Working Through Labor Shortage Challenges

This resource offers best practices used by school kitchens across the nation to recruit and retain staff. Practices such as recruiting volunteers, expanding staff benefits, utilizing creative logistics, and advertising at every opportunity!

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School Lunch
School Breakfast
Elementary school girl sitting at her desk eating school breakfast.

Increasing Participation through Alternative Meal Service Models

Alternative meal service models can be utilized anytime to ensure students are able to access meals conveniently and efficiently during the school day.

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Afterschool Meals Resources
women packs meals into boxes

Both school and community organizations can help feed kids this school year with afterschool meals and snacks.

Both school and non-school sponsors have the opportunity serve meals and snacks during School Year 2021-2022 through the CACFP At-Risk Afterschool Meals component. Schools can serve afterschool meals and snacks in conjunction with the Seamless Summer Option or NSLP and SBP. Additionally, schools can offer afterschool snacks through NSLP.  

In order to operate an open afterschool meal site in the 2022-2023 school year, sites must be determined area eligible. Determining if your site is area eligible can be complicated. Navigating Area Eligibility in Summer and Afterschool Meals Program provides information on how to determine if a site is area eligible, the types of data that can be used to make that determination, and options for meal service if a site is not area eligible. It also outlines flexibilities available for what data can be used to determine eligibility for summer 2022 and the 2022-2023 school year.

The afterschool enrichment waiver issued in the spring of 2020 has not been extended; however, virtual and take-home activities may be options in your state. Combined with the availability of the non-congregate, meal service time, and parent or guardian meal pick-up waivers for the CACFP and NSLP in SY21-22, this may permit bulk meal distribution for off-site consumption. However, these waivers are only available this school year for the duration and to the extent necessary, so work with your state agency on your operational plans based on the situation in your community. If you are operating a grab & go or delivery program, meal pick-up or delivery confirmations can count as the attendance tracking requirement (see Question 41 in USDA's Q&A). Please check with your state agency on this and all alternative operations.  

Also, please note that previous Q&A guidance from USDA indicates that the meal service time waiver does not allow for meal distribution during the school day if children are attending an in-person school or in-person program for virtual learners. Additionally, please work with your state agency regarding expectations for attendance records.  

If you're looking for ideas on virtual activities, we have compiled suggestions and links to last several months. We also have a resource with links to printable materials that can be distributed along with meals if your sites served children who may not have reliable access to technology. 

Resources

Afterschool Meals
Coronavirus

Virtual Enrichment Activities

This provides links to online activities that can be shared with kids in order to meet the afterschool enrichment activity requirement while providing non-congregate meals. These activites are also great alongside non-congregate summer meals!

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Print Enrichment Activity Materials

This provides links to worksheets and handouts that can be printed and distributed along with non-congregate meals in order to meet the afterschool enrichment activity requirement.

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