USDA Announces Waivers for School Year 2021-2022

On Tuesday, April 20th, the USDA acted proactively in extending several critical nationwide child nutrition waivers.

Overview

The United States Department of Agriculture has announced that a number of nationwide child nutrition waivers will be available through the 2021-2022 school year. This is welcome news for children, schools, and sponsors as the nation continues to recover from the economic, educational and health emergencies of the past year, and we applaud the USDA for offering proactive guidance for the full school year.
 
The waivers included in this announcement, most of which are effective July 1, 2021 through June 30, 2022, include:

  • Allow All Schools to Operate the National School Lunch Program’s Seamless Summer Option (SSO) through SY21-22
  • Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) Reimbursements for SSO Meals for SY21-22
  • Non-Congregate Feeding for the SSO, Child and Adult Care Food Program, and National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs
  • Meal Service Time Flexibility for the SSO, CACFP, NSLP and SBP
  • Allow Parents and Guardians to Pick Up Meals for Children for the SSO, CACFP, NSLP and SBP
  • Specific Meal Pattern Flexibility for the SSO, CACFP, NSLP and SBP
    • Flexibilities for SSO, NSLP and SBP are effective October 1, 2022 following the expiration of the waiver covering Summer 2021 operations
  • Offer Versus Serve Flexibility for Senior High Schools in the NSLP
  • Area Eligibility for Afterschool Programs and Family Day Care Homes
  • On-Site Monitoring for SSO, CACFP, NSLP and SBP State Agencies and Sponsors
    • These waivers are available until 30 days after the end of the public health emergency

Taken together, these waivers will allow many of the service models implemented over the past year to continue through next school year, such as distributing multiple meals at one time to parents or guardians, sending meals home with students, or delivering meals directly to children’s homes. The waivers will also provide needed flexibility for alternative service models within schools, like meals in the classroom. The waiver allowing all schools, regardless of location, to operate the SSO through SY21-22 means that schools may continue serving free meals to all students.
 
Unlike this school year, schools and community organizations will not have the option to operate the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) once the new school year begins. However, the waivers announced today will continue to provide flexibility to both schools and non-profit organizations operating the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), including the At-Risk Afterschool Meals component. Additionally, schools operating SSO will receive the SFSP reimbursement rates for meals served.
 
Today’s announcement helps ensure that kids will continue to have consistent access to the nutrition they need as families and communities continue along the long path of recovery. The announcement today is also important for schools and sponsors, giving them time to plan and budget for next year. It also allows schools to alert families in advance about the meals available and provides increased stability to the supply chain that supports local economies.
 
We stand ready to support state agencies, schools, sponsors, and partners in navigating these waivers and planning for the coming school year. For more information, see our updated waiver summaryblog post and statement from No Kid Hungry’s Senior Vice President Lisa Davis.