Skip to main content
California Department of Education Logo

Exemptions to the Standard Lunch Period

Nutrition Services Division Management Bulletin

To: National School Lunch Program Sponsors

Number: 02-120

Attention: Food Service Director

Date: August 2002

Subject: Exemptions to the Standard Lunch Period

Reference: United States Department of Agriculture SP Policy Memo 02-16; Title 7, Code of Federal Regulations Section 210.10(f)(1)
Supersedes: United States Department of Agriculture All Points Bulletin dated December 17, 1992

This Management Bulletin provides information regarding exemptions to the lunch service times specified in National School Lunch Program (NSLP) regulations. Title 7, Code of Federal Regulations (7 CFR) Section 210.10(f)(1) states that schools must offer lunches between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. and that schools may request an exemption from this requirement from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Effective immediately, USDA has delegated the Nutrition Services Division (NSD) authority to grant, under certain circumstances, approval to sponsors to serve lunch before 10:00 a.m. and after 2:00 p.m. NSD will evaluate each request to establish that the situation meets one of the following criteria:

Standard 1: Reasonable variances from the lunch service requirements are necessary to accommodate special circumstances in schools. For example, a school that has a need to extend lunch service hours to 2:30 p.m. due to either capacity concerns or because of extended school hours.

Standard 2: A school operates at a non-traditional time, for example, some work-study programs allow high school students to work in the morning or afternoon hours and attend high school classes in the late afternoon/evening. This approval will be contingent on the following: (a) these alternative programs provide students an opportunity to obtain the minimum requirements needed for graduation at a non-traditional time, and (b) it is not possible to serve lunch at a more traditional time.

Sponsors will not be required to request approval annually after NSD approves an alternate lunch time. However, if the conditions change, the sponsor is required to inform NSD in writing. In addition, if the special circumstances (such as overcrowding) are time limited (such as the planned building of an additional school), NSD will grant the approval for a specified calendar period. Similarly, if the school is moving toward eliminating the need to serve lunch earlier than 10:00 a.m. or later than 2:00 p.m., the exemption request will be granted for only a specified calendar period.

Sponsors may submit a request using the attached form, including a description of the circumstances prompting the exemption. NSD will notify sponsors in writing of its decision. Sponsors receiving approval are required to maintain records of the exemption request, approval, and a list of all approved sites for as long as the exemption approval is applicable. If circumstances change and the approved exemption no longer applies, the sponsor must maintain the records for three years from the end of the school year and the beginning of the exemption.

Please share the information provided in this Management Bulletin with appropriate management and staff.


Standard Lunch Period Exemption Request Form [Note, form is located in the CNIPS download forms area, named SNP-36.]

Questions:   Nutrition Services Division | 800-952-5609
Last Reviewed: Monday, February 8, 2016
Recently Posted in Nutrition
  • Eligibility Requirements for Military Families (added 19-Jan-2017)
    Management Bulletin CNP-02-2017, USDA Policy Memo SP 06-2010, CACFP 03-2010, SFSP 04-2010 Revised: Eligibility Requirements for Military Families.
  • 2017–18 SBP and SFSP Start-up and Expansion Grants (added 04-Jan-2017)
    Management Bulletin SNP-01-2017/SFSP01-2017: CEC Section 49550.3: Availability of School Breakfast Program and Summer Food Service Program Start-up and Expansion Grants for State Fiscal Year 2017-18 Request for Applications.
  • Eligibility Requirements for SNP (added 30-Nov-2016)
    Management Bulletin SNP-18-2016, USDA Policy Memorandum SP 34-2016: provides guidance on eligibility requirements and available resources for the School Nutrition Programs.