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Disaster Relief Guidelines

Providing meals to children and food to affected communities during State or federally declared disasters.

Schools and/or districts participating in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) are allowed flexibility in providing meals to children and food to affected communities during State or federally declared disasters. Specifically, California Education Code Section 49505 provides the following:

  • Schools participating in the NSLP may serve meals at no charge to a student who has been rendered “homeless” because of a State or federally declared disaster. Schools and/or districts may temporarily claim and be reimbursed for these meals in the “free” category on their monthly Claim For Reimbursement, regardless of the student’s eligibility for meal benefits. Management Bulletin (MB) CNP-02-2015 (April 2015) further defines the term “homeless” and the protocol that districts must follow to claim meals for homeless children.
  • School meals DO NOT have to meet federal meal pattern (component) requirements during the disaster period. All meals served are considered to be complete and reimbursable; however, schools are encouraged to document why meal patterns could not be met (e.g., no fluid milk available because of transportation issues, road closures, etc.).

In addition, schools that are closed due to a State or federally declared disaster may apply for reimbursement to offset fixed expenses, such as salaries that continue to accrue during the temporary closure. Please note that meal reimbursement is contingent upon available funding. Applications should be submitted immediately after the disaster; however, payment is contingent upon available funding after the end of the State’s fiscal year (i.e., after June 30 each year).

  • Reimbursement for such a disaster is equal to the average daily participation (the number of meals normally served) multiplied by the average combined State and federal reimbursement rate received by the school/district in the month prior to the closure, multiplied by the number of days the school/district is closed. Please use the Application for Meal Reimbursement During Disaster (DOC).

Further, schools and districts are also allowed flexibility regarding the use of United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Foods during a State or federally declared disaster (Title 7, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 250; Food Distribution Program Administrative Manual, Chapter 6), with prior approval from the California Department of Education (CDE):

  • Disaster relief organizations may designate schools as community feeding sites or request schools to provide their foods to other feeding sites. USDA Foods are to be released upon request to recognized disaster relief organizations such as the American Red Cross or the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services. Management Bulletin 02-401 (March 2002) provides complete information regarding USDA Foods usage during a disaster.

If you have questions regarding school meal disaster relief policies, please contact your Field Services Child Nutrition Consultant at 800-952-5609 or 916-322-3609.

For more information about USDA Foods issues from the CDE, Nutrition Services Division, contact Jeremy Pagan, Food Administration Manager, at 916-324-7132 or by e-mail at

If you need assistance with pending disaster relief reimbursement claims, please contact Child Nutrition Fiscal Services at 916-322-8330.

Questions:   Nutrition Services Division | 800-952-5609  
Last Reviewed: Monday, August 10, 2015

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