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Disaster Response in Child Nutrition Programs

Nutrition Services Division Management Bulletin
Purpose: Policy, Beneficial Information
To: Child Nutrition Program Sponsors Number: USDA-CNP-01-2013
Attention: Food Program/Service Directors Date: January 2013
Subject: Disaster Response in Child Nutrition Programs
Reference: U.S. Department of Agriculture Policy Memo SP 25-2012, CACFP 12-2012, and SFSP 10-2012

This Management Bulletin (MB) provides information and guidance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on ways the California Department of Education (CDE), School Food Authorities (SFA), institutions, and sponsors participating in the Child Nutrition Programs (CNP) can respond to affected communities during Presidentially declared disasters or emergencies. The CDE will issue a communication alert when the President declares a disaster or an emergency.

Children and Adult Participants Experiencing Homelessness

Children residing in or evacuated from disaster areas, who are determined homeless under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, are categorically eligible for free meals in the CNPs. A school district’s homeless liaison coordinator will determine homeless status due to a disaster situation and provide a list of all children determined homeless to SFAs, institutions, or sponsors who must certify these children for free meals.

In cases where a household from a designated disaster area moves in with another household, the homeless liaison may determine the displaced individuals homeless under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act. Displaced children and adult participants in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) are categorically eligible for reimbursement, at the free rate, in centers and Tier I reimbursement in family day care homes (DCH), even if they are temporarily residing with another family. The host family may include the displaced family members as household members, and include any income provided to them when completing income eligibility forms.

The agency assisting with the evacuation or providing shelter can provide certification of participants’ homeless status to SFAs, institutions, or sponsors requiring eligibility information. An adult living with a child not residing in an emergency shelter must complete an income eligibility form indicating the child is homeless. No further information is required to certify the child’s eligibility.

Disaster Benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

Children in households receiving Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP) benefits are categorically eligible for free meals in the CNPs. Sponsors may certify these children for free meals through direct contact with the SNAP agency or by a household submitting an application with a D-SNAP case number.

Emergency Shelters in the Child and Adult Care Food Program

Emergency shelters providing temporary housing to displaced families are eligible to participate in the CACFP. The CDE may designate any appropriate facility as an emergency shelter and may waive agency application requirements when significant numbers of persons are temporarily housed. All children through age eighteen may receive up to three free meals (breakfast, lunch, and supper) each day.

An “appropriate facility” may include a school or an agency that provides meals to displaced families who are temporarily housed in locations that may not have the means to provide meal services.

Certification of Free Meals by School Officials

School officials may submit meal benefit applications on behalf of children they know to be homeless. For more information on this option, please refer to Part 3: Processing Applications of the Eligibility Manual for School Meals on the USDA Guidance and Resources Web page at

Duration of Meal Benefit Eligibility

Children certified for free or reduced-price (F/RP) meal benefits, as a result of a disaster, remain eligible for the entire school year and up to 30 days in the next school year. CACFP participants remain eligible for reimbursement at the free rate in centers or Tier I reimbursement in DCH for 12 months.

Carry-over of Previous Year’s Eligibility by School Food Authorities

The 30-day carry-over of the previous year’s meal benefit eligibility for school meals is based on operating (not calendar) days. If schools already in session were temporarily closed, or schools delayed opening at the beginning of the school year, the SFA determines the 30-day carry-over period using the number of days schools were actually operating. A child’s prior year F/RP eligibility continues for 30 operating days or until an SFA determines his/her new eligibility status for the current school year.


The CDE, SFAs, and Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) or CACFP sponsors may determine that operating sites under the SFSP or the Seamless Summer Feeding Option (SSFO) would be useful when schools or day care facilities must remain closed due to disaster situations. SFSP regulations allow expedited approval of feeding sites during an emergency. Organizations with current SFSP Agreements may be approved to open emergency feeding sites as outlined in Title 7, Code of Federal Regulations (7 CFR), Section 225.6(c).

For more information on the SSFO, please see USDA Policy Memo SP 27-2009 on the USDA School Meals Policy Memos Web page at


CNP policies allow flexibility and support continuation of meal benefits to participants in disaster areas. Existing flexible meal service requirements and administrative procedures make it easier for the CDE, SFAs, institutions, and sponsors to operate and respond to disaster situations.

Meal Component and Meal Service

Modifications may be made to times of meal service and the use of the offer versus serve menu planning option with CDE approval.

The CDE may allow SFAs, institutions, and sponsors to serve meals without milk or with an alternate form of milk, such as canned or dry milk [7 CFR 210.10(m)(2)(i); 7 CFR 225.16(f)(6); 7 CFR 226.20(e)] when emergency conditions prevent schools, institutions, or sponsors from obtaining fluid milk.

SFAs, institutions, and sponsors should consult with the CDE if changes to other meal component requirements are needed. For the school meals programs, 7 CFR 210.10(g)(4) allows SFAs to serve meals that do not meet the menu planning or meal pattern requirements in disaster situations. In the CACFP, 7 CFR 226.20(i) allows special variations in the food components of meals.

Meal Accountability and Verification Procedures

As a result of a disaster, the USDA is authorized to allow the CDE, SFAs, institutions, and sponsors to submit meal reimbursement claims beyond the 60/90-day requirement. These claims are not subject to the one-time exception for late submissions.

If SFAs, institutions, or sponsors need to reconstruct unsubmitted claims due to the loss of current records, they must consult with the CDE. The CDE may approve such requests in consultation with the USDA.

When an SFA’s, institution’s, or sponsor’s records, such as paid claims, approved applications, and production records, are destroyed, they should inform the CDE of the circumstances, dates of the losses, and the types and approximate age of the records that were lost.

SFAs, institutions, and sponsors that are operational, but unable to maintain normal accountability systems, including counting, claiming, and monitoring, must contact the CDE regarding how to proceed. In these situations, the SFAs, institutions, and sponsors must submit waiver requests to the USDA for approval.

With regard to verification under the National School Lunch Program, the CDE may approve an SFA’s deadline extension requests from November 15 through December 15 [7 CFR 245.6a(b)(2)]. The USDA must approve extensions beyond that date. In addition, the USDA may approve alternatives for sample size and selection when the SFA has had a disaster [7 CFR 245.6a(c)(60)].

Child and Adult Care Food Program, Summer Food Service Program, and Seamless Summer Feeding Option Site Eligibility

Based on the significant needs of each community, the USDA may waive regulatory requirements under the CACFP, SFSP, and SSFO in which sponsors must document each site is serving an area where poor economic conditions exist [7 CFR 225.6(c)(2); 7 CFR 226.2 (Tier I DCH)]. The USDA may waive these requirements for existing eligible sites located in an area damaged by a natural disaster, which must relocate to areas that are not eligible, based on school or census data.

Additionally, the CDE may waive the requirement that, during an unanticipated school closure, SFSP sites may not be located at school sites [7 CFR 225.6(d)(1)(iv)]. Although schools may be closed, some school buildings may be unaffected by the disaster and may be approved as a location for emergency feeding.


For more information about using and accounting for USDA Foods in disaster situations, please refer to the USDA Food Distribution Program Disaster Assistance Web page at

For information on California’s Disaster Relief Guidelines, please refer to the CDE Disaster Relief Guidelines Web page at

Contact Information

If you have any questions regarding this MB, please contact the appropriate Nutrition Services Division staff member for your agency listed below.

School Nutrition Programs

You may find a list of contact information for your School Nutrition Programs (SNP) specialist in the Download Forms section of the Child Nutrition Information and Payment System (CNIPS). You may also contact the SNP Unit Secretary by phone at 916-322-1450.

Child and Adult Care Food Program

You may find a list of contact information for your CACFP specialist in the Download Forms section of the CNIPS. You may also contact Nancy Charpentier by phone at 916-327-2991 or by e-mail at

Summer Food Service Program

You may refer to Form SFSP 01 in the Download Forms section of the CNIPS for a list of SFSP specialists. You may also contact Larry Frakes, SFSP Unit Secretary, by phone at 916-322-8323 or by e-mail at

Questions:   Nutrition Services Division | 800-952-5609
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