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FAQs on Child Nutrition Program Operations During School Closures
boy carrying a bagged lunch

Looking for information on how to feed kids while schools are closed due to the coronavirus?

Visit this resource, "FAQs On Child Nutrition Program Options Available During School Closures Related To The Coronavirus," to get the answers to your questions.

This resource is based on guidance and options available as of 4/20/2020 and includes information related to new waiver authority given to the USDA through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, flexibilities offered by nationwide waivers, and guidance offered by several Q&A memos now available on the FNS child nutrition policy page.

The questions currently addressed in this resource are:

  1. Can we serve meals through the child nutrition programs outside of the usual group (“congregate”) settings to allow for social distancing?
  2. Are all of the child nutrition programs available to serve kids during unanticipated school and child care closures?
  3. Who can receive meals? Can only enrolled students or children receive meals?
  4. Do children have to be present to receive a meal, or can parents or guardians pick up meals on behalf of their children?
  5. Do we still have to offer supervised enrichment programming in order to serve meals through the CACFP At-Risk Afterschool Meals?
  6. Do area eligibility restrictions still apply to SFSP, SSO, CACFP At-Risk Afterschool Meals, and NSLP Area-Eligible Afterschool Snacks?
  7. Do meal service time restrictions still apply? Can I provide more than one meal at a time or provide meals for multiple days at one time?
  8. Can states submit waivers for other requirements?
  9. Should states wait for the USDA to make blanket national waivers?
  10. Can schools or sponsoring organizations take action to request or implement waivers on their own?
  11. Will schools or sponsoring organizations eventually have to submit waiver requests to their states?
  12. Who exactly can operate child nutrition programs during school and care closures due the coronavirus?
  13. Does this apply to charter or private school closures, and could private and charter schools operate the program?
  14. Can new school food authorities or sponsoring organizations be approved to operate child nutrition programs and utilize these flexibilities?
  15. Can new sites be approved? Or can only current CACFP sites or past SFSP or SSO sites be utilized?
  16. Where can these programs operate?
  17. In addition to breakfast and lunch through SBP and NSLP, my school used to serve supper through CACFP At-Risk Afterschool and/or snacks through CACFP At-Risk Afterschool or NSLP Afterschool Snacks. Can we continue to do so in addition to serving breakfast and lunch through SFSP or SSO?
  18. What are my options for packaging or serving meals? Can I do Offer Versus Serve?
  19. Is there any flexibility on the meal pattern requirements, especially with issues related to supply and availability?
  20. Is there any flexibility on procurement requirements to help us source food from other vendors that may have what we need?
  21. As a sponsoring organization or school food authority, do we need to continue to do on-site monitoring and reviews?
  22. What other program requirements will continue to apply?
  23. What if a school or school district was scheduled to be on spring break or have a professional development day? Can meals still be served through the SFSP or SSO?
  24. Can meals be served on weekends?
  25. What options are available for non-congregate meal service?
  26. My state or area is under a “shelter in place” or “stay at home” order that limits all but essential services. Can we still prepare and distribute meals? Can families still come to pick them up at distribution points, or do they have to be delivered to homes?
  27. What is Pandemic-EBT authorized by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R 6201)?
  28. If my state implements P-EBT, will my school or sponsoring organization still be able to serve non-congregate meals?
  29. Is P-EBT available to children who are affected by child care closures?


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Strategies & Tactics to Reach Kids with Meals During School Closures
girl eating lunch at home in her backyard

Looking for ideas on how to get meals to kids affected by school closures?

Emerging Strategies & Tactics For Meal Service During School Closures Related To The Coronavirus offers ideas on how to get meals to kids affected by school closures. This resource highlights meal distribution strategies that schools and community organizations have already started putting into place across the country in response to widespread school closures due to the coronavirus. In addition to breaking down distribution plans into four main models -- drive thru or curbside distribution, walk-up distribution, mobile or bus route delivery, and direct home delivery -- it also includes guidance and ideas for staffing, staff safety, planning for emergencies, meal preparation, menus and meal options, distribution logistics, communication, and partnerships. The resource page also includes a separate document with ideas and recommendations specifically tailored to child nutrition program state agencies.

For a shorter resource focused on how to keep your staff safe and healthy while ensuring continued meal service for kids and families, check out Emergency Planning and Staff Safety Tips.

Always defer to guidance from the USDA or your state agency, and please consult with your state agency before implementing a new strategy in order to ensure compliance. If you have a staff member diagnosed with COVID-19, please work with local public health officials to determine the appropriate course of action given local guidelines.

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Summer Meals
School Nutrition Employee Smiles While Preparing Food

Emergency Planning and Staff Safety Tips

This short resource will help you keep your staff healthy and plan for what happens if someone does get sick.

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Summary of Current COVID-19 Child Nutrition Program Response Nationwide Waivers
cafeteria worker packing breakfasts

The table conveniently details all of the nationwide waivers issued to date by the USDA in response to the coronavirus.

For each of the 25 nationwide waivers issued to date, the table provides the waiver number, the title, programs to which it applies, its release date, the end date, a brief summary of what the waiver does, and additional notes and caveats. It was also includes the Q&A memoranda issued by the USDA to provide clarification and additional guidance around the nationwide waivers and operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although states have now received waivers from the area eligibility requirement for open sites in the Summer Food Service Program and NSLP Seamless Summer Option, this is currently not available as a nationwide waiver.

This was last updated on 5/16/2020 to include the extension of the non-congregate waiver, parent/guardian meal pick-up waiver, and meal service time waiver through August 31, as announced by the USDA on May 15, 2020.


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Comparison of Usual Summer and Afterschool Meal Requirements to Current COVID-19 Flexibilities

This chart breaks down how these programs usually work and the options currently available to help program operators adapt to the coronavirus.

The chart covers information on both the Summer Food Service Program & Seamless Summer Options as well as CACFP At-Risk Afterschool Meals, including:

  • The meals reimbursed by each program

  • Eligible sites

  • Eligible participants

  • The congregate meal service requirement

  • Meal service time requirements

  • Allowable days of operation, including weekends, spring break, and other non-school days

  • Meal requirements

  • Claim submission deadlines

  • Record keeping requirements

  • Procurement

  • Site monitoring

  • Unanticipated school closures


It was recently updated to reflect the guidance included in several Q&A memoranda issued by the USDA.


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FAQs on Pandemic-EBT and Coronavirus Response-SNAP

Looking for information on Pandemic-EBT and Coronavirus Response SNAP?

Visit this resource, "FAQs on Pandemic-EBT and Coronavirus Response-SNAP" to get the answers to your questions.

This resource is based on USDA’s guidance to states on implementing the new Coronavirus Response SNAP (CR-SNAP) and Pandemic-EBT (P-EBT) authorized by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. Updated based on information available as of 5/22/2020.

What is new:

  • Pandemic-EBT: The number of states that are approved for P-EBT implementation reaches 34 with the inclusion of Kentucky, Tennessee, District of Columbia, Wyoming, Colorado, Louisiana, and Indiana. 
  • Online SNAP purchasing pilot: The number of states that are approved to allow SNAP households to use their EBT card for online food purchase from approved retailers reached 24 with the inclusion of a number of states such as Wyoming, Wisconsin and Rhode Island. Eighteen of these states are newly approved over the last few days and weeks.

The questions answered in this resource are:

1. What is the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) (H.R 6201)?
2. Where can I find a summary of the FFCRA?
3. What is P-EBT?
4. Who is eligible for P-EBT?
5. What must states do to implement P-EBT?
6. What guidance is available from USDA on P-EBT?
7. If my state implements P-EBT, will my school or sponsoring organization still be able to serve non-congregate meals?
8. Is P-EBT available to children who are affected by child care closures?
9. Which states have been approved for P-EBT?
10. What are the CR-SNAP benefit increases authorized by FFCRA?
11. Who is eligible for CR-SNAP?
12. Are families receiving P-EBT for their children also eligible to receive CR-SNAP authorized by the FFCRA?
13. How much is the CR-SNAP allotment?
14. How will CR-SNAP be issued?
15. Which states have been approved for CR-SNAP?
16. Are states required to submit waiver requests on work requirements for Able Bodied Adults Without Dependents (ABAWDs) in SNAP?
17. What additional SNAP operational and administrative flexibilities are provided to states under FFCRA?
18. What other waivers and flexibilities are states requesting from USDA to improve program operation and reach of SNAP in the Pandemic declaration?
19. Where can I find a full list of nationwide waivers issued by USDA on SNAP and Child Nutrition Programs?


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Resources for State and Local Elected Officials

Are you a policymaker looking for resources and recommendations to respond to food insecurity among your constituents during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Among the critical challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, food insecurity is one of the most widespread and solvable. This resource - Supporting Schools, Communities, and Nutrition Programs During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Recommended State Policy Actions - lists some options available to state policymakers to unlock the potential of federal and state food and nutrition programs and ensure that families and children have the support they need throughout this unprecedented crisis and beyond. 

Leverage Federal Waivers, Resources and Programs

  • Implement and Strengthen Pandemic-EBT (P-EBT) to ensure that families of students eligible for free and reduced-price meals have access to commensurate grocery benefits. 
  • Enlist Waivers and USDA-Authorized Flexibilities to strengthen the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Draw Down Federal Emergency Relief Funds, like those listed below, to provide schools, local governments, and other entities have access to federal funds to support nutrition assistance in response to COVID-19. 
    • The CARES Act allocated more than $30 billion in emergency relief to schools and school districts struggling to operate during the COVID-19 outbreak. See our supplemental resource—The CARES Act: An Overview of Federal Funding for Schools and School Districts—for more information about these funds.
      • The Governor’s Emergency Relief Fund (GEERF), established by CARES Act, provides a total of $3 billion to Governors to support school districts impacted by the pandemic and their efforts to maintain core functionality and ongoing essential and emergency educational services including funding any other services that Governors deem critical for students.
      • The Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSERF), established by the CARES Act, appropriates $13.5 billion to support Local Educational Agencies' effort to provide a range of services and activities to meet the unique needs of low-income children and schools such as funding for planning and coordination of essential services like meal delivery.
    • The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has made Public Assistance Funds available to reimburse state, local, and tribal governments for eligible costs for the purchase and distribution of food in response to COVID-19. Eligible costs include those associated with purchasing, packaging, and/or delivering food commodities, fresh foods, shelf-stable food products, and prepared meals. Please see our supplemental resource—FEMA Public Assistance Grants: Leveraging Funds To Provide Meals To Vulnerable Families And Children During Covid-19—for more information about using these grants to meet nutritional needs in your community.

Opportunities for State Leadership

  • Ensure Racial Equity in Responding to the Impact of COVID-19 through, for example, gathering data about the health outcomes for racial and ethnic minority communities and allocated state resources according to address disparities. 
  • Support School Food Service Workers by ensuring access to Personal Protective Equipment, supporting childcare needs, and recognizing them for their incredible service to their communities. 
  • Support School and School District Budgets to cover costs of providing emergency meal distribution and delivery and Enhance School Nutrition Department Capacity to continue meal service throughout the summer months. 
  • Establish Emergency Response Funds to ensure that food banks or other organizations have the resources they need to meet the unprecedented surge in demand for food services by vulnerable families. 
  • Supports Restaurants and Culinary Workers through, for example, establishing a statewide "Community Meals Fund," to empower the restaurant community to provide emergency and nutritious foods to families and children and providing financial support to industry workers impacted by restaurant closures.