FAQs on Child Nutrition Program Options Available During School Closures Related to the Coronavirus
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 recent Q&A memos.
The questions currently addressed in this resource are:
- Can we serve meals through the child nutrition programs outside of the usual group (“congregate”) settings to allow for social distancing?
- Are all of the child nutrition programs available to serve kids during unanticipated school and child care closures?
- Who can receive meals? Can only enrolled students or children receive meals?
- Do children have to be present to receive a meal, or can parents or guardians pick up meals on behalf of their children?
- Do we still have to offer supervised enrichment programming in order to serve meals through the CACFP At-Risk Afterschool Meals?
- Do area eligibility restrictions still apply to SFSP, SSO, CACFP At-Risk Afterschool Meals, and NSLP Area-Eligible Afterschool Snacks?
- 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?
- Can states submit waivers for other requirements?
- Should states wait for the USDA to make blanket national waivers?
- Can schools or sponsoring organizations take action to request or implement waivers on their own?
- Will schools or sponsoring organizations eventually have to submit waiver requests to their states?
- Who exactly can operate child nutrition programs during school and care closures due the coronavirus?
- Does this apply to charter or private school closures, and could private and charter schools operate the program?
- Can new school food authorities or sponsoring organizations be approved to operate child nutrition programs and utilize these flexibilities?
- Can new sites be approved? Or can only current CACFP sites or past SFSP or SSO sites be utilized?
- Where can these programs operate?
- 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?
- What are my options for packaging or serving meals? Can I do Offer Versus Serve?
- Is there any flexibility on the meal pattern requirements, especially with issues related to supply and availability?
- Is there any flexibility on procurement requirements to help us source food from other vendors that may have what we need?
- As a sponsoring organization or school food authority, do we need to continue to do on-site monitoring and reviews?
- What other program requirements will continue to apply?
- 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?
- Can meals be served on weekends?
- What options are available for non-congregate meal service?
- 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?
- What is Pandemic-EBT authorized by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R 6201)?
- If my state implements P-EBT, will my school or sponsoring organization still be able to serve non-congregate meals?
- Is P-EBT available to children who are affected by child care closures?
Other Helpful Links:
- USDA Food and Nutrition Service website with guidance related to the coronavirus: https://www.fns.usda.gov/disaster/pandemic/covid-19
- No Kid Hungry Responds to the Coronavirus: https://www.nokidhungry.org/coronavirus
- Case study on spring break meals by the Nutrition Policy Institute, Stanford Medicine Department, and School Nutrition Association: https://ucanr.edu/sites/NewNutritionPolicyInstitute/files/323167.pdf
*Note: the USDA now permits operators to continue serving meals through SFSP or SSO even if spring break or other days off school are not cancelled.