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Disaster Response - Child Nutrition Programs

Nutrition Services Division Management Bulletin

Purpose: Policy, Beneficial Information

To: Child Nutrition Program Operators

Attention: Food Service/Program Directors, Executive Officers, and Business Officials

Number: CNP-01-2023

Date: December 2023

Reference: U.S. Department of Agriculture Policy Memorandum SP 46-2014 and SFSP 18-2014

Supersedes: Management Bulletin USDA-CNP-02-2015, April 2015

Subject: Disaster Response

This Management Bulletin (MB) supersedes MB USDA-CNP-02-2015, issued in April 2015, regarding information and guidance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on steps that school food authorities (SFA) and sponsors participating in the child nutrition programs (CNP) can take when responding to state or federally declared disasters in affected communities.

Eligibility for Free Meals and Disaster Benefits
  1. Children Participants Experiencing Homelessness
    Children residing in or evacuated from disaster areas who are determined to be homeless under the McKinney–Vento Homeless Assistance Act are categorically eligible for free meals in the CNPs. A sponsor’s McKinney–Vento coordinator or homeless liaison must determine homeless status due to a disaster situation and then provide a list of all children determined to be homeless to SFAs or sponsors that must certify these children for free meals.

    The agency assisting with the evacuation or providing shelter can provide certification of participants’ homeless status to SFAs or sponsors requiring eligibility information. An adult living with a child who is not residing in an emergency shelter must complete an income eligibility form indicating the child is homeless.

  2. Disaster Benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
    Children in households receiving benefits from CalFresh, federally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, are categorically eligible for free meals in the CNPs. Certification of these children may be accomplished through direct contact with the CalFresh agency or by an application submitted by a household with a CalFresh case number.

  3. Certification by School Officials
    School officials may submit applications on behalf of children they know to be homeless; these children are categorically eligible for free meals. For more information on this option, please refer to the Eligibility Manual for School Meals, Part 3: Processing Applications, available on the USDA School Meals Guidance and Resources web page at External link opens in new window or tab..

    Children certified for free or reduced-price meal benefits in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) as a result of a disaster remain eligible for the entire school year and up to 30 operating days in the next school year.

  4. Carryover of Previous Year’s Eligibility by SFAs
    The 30-day carryover of the previous year’s eligibility for school meals is based on operating days. If schools already in session were temporarily closed or delayed opening at the beginning of the school year, the SFA determines the 30-day carryover period using the number of days schools were actually operating. A child’s prior year free or reduced-price eligibility continues until eligibility status for the current school year is established or upon the completion of 30 operating days, whichever is fewer.

  5. Use of Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) or Seamless Summer Feeding Option (SSO) in Disaster Situations
    SFAs and sponsors may determine that operating SFSP or SSO sites would be useful when schools 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).

  6. Use of USDA Foods During a State/Federally Declared Disaster
    Disaster relief organizations may designate schools as community feeding sites or request that schools provide their USDA Foods to other feeding sites. USDA Foods are to be released on request to recognized disaster relief organizations such as the American Red Cross or the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services. Information regarding USDA Foods usage, reporting, and claiming procedures during a disaster can be found in MB: Use of U.S. Department of Agriculture Foods in Disaster Feeding, located on the California Department of Education (CDE) Food Distribution MB web page at
  1. Flexibilities that Require State Agency or U.S. Department of Agriculture Approval
    CNP policies allow flexibility and support continuation of meal benefits to participants in disaster areas. Existing flexibilities in meal service requirements and administrative procedures make it easier for SFAs and sponsors to operate during and respond during disaster situations.

    1. Flexibility in Meal Component and Meal Service
      Modifications may be made to the time of meal service and sites may use offer versus serve with state agency approval. The CDE may allow the service of meals without milk or with an alternate form of milk, such as canned or dry milk, when emergency conditions prevent schools or sponsors from obtaining fluid milk (7 CFR, sections 210.10[m][2][i], 225.16[f][6]). SFAs and sponsors should consult with the CDE if changes to other meal component requirements are needed. For the school nutrition programs (SNP), 7 CFR, Section 210.10(g)(4), allows SFAs to serve meals that do not meet the menu planning or meal pattern requirements in disaster situations. Agencies must apply to waive meal pattern requirements in a disaster situation by completing the CDE online application which is available on the CDE’s Disaster Response for Child Nutrition Programs web page located at

    2. Flexibility in Accountability and Verification Procedures
      The USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) Regional Offices are authorized to allow the CDE, SFAs, and sponsors to submit claims beyond the 60/90-day requirement. Claims submitted outside of the 60/90-day requirement, as a result of a disaster, are not subject to the one-time exception for late submissions.

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

      When records such as paid claims, approved applications, and production records are destroyed, then SFAs or sponsors should inform the CDE of the circumstances, dates of the losses, and the types and approximate age of the records that were lost. State agencies should note the losses in their records for the purpose of any future administrative reviews and audits.

      SFAs and sponsors that are operational, but unable to maintain normal accountability systems—including counting, claiming, and monitoring—must contact the CDE regarding how they should proceed. In these situations, waiver requests must be submitted to FNS for approval.

      With regard to verification under the NSLP, the CDE may approve deadline extensions from November 15 through December 15, (7 CFR, Section 245.6a[b][2]). Extensions beyond that date must be approved by the FNS. In addition, the FNS may approve alternatives for sample size and selection when the SFA is affected by a disaster (7 CFR, Section 245.6a[c][6]).

    3. Other Exceptional Emergency Situations or Man-made Disasters
      Other exceptional emergency situations or man-made disasters, such as human pandemic or chemical plant explosions, may affect a sponsor’s ability to continue normal program operations. The FNS may approve flexibilities to accommodate the needs of severely affected areas in these circumstances. Flexibilities are provided on a case-by-case basis and will require justification from the requesting state agency. The FNS must approve changes to program operation or administration prior to implementation.

    4. Reimbursement for Temporary School Closure Due to Disaster
      Schools or school districts 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 temporary closure. Please note that meal reimbursement is contingent upon available funding. Disaster Meal Applications for reimbursement are available on the Disaster Guidance for Child Nutrition Programs web page located at and should be submitted immediately after the disaster.

      Reimbursement for disaster is equal to the average daily participation (the number of meals typically served) multiplied by the average combined state and federal reimbursement rate received by the school or district in the month prior to the closure, multiplied by the number of days the school or district is closed.

For more information on participation in the SSO, please refer to the CDE Seamless Summer Option web page at

For more information about using and accounting for USDA Foods in disaster situations, please refer to the USDA Food Distribution Disaster Assistance web page at External link opens in new window or tab..

For information on Disaster Relief Guidelines, please refer to the CDE Disaster Relief Guidelines web page at

Contact Information

If you have questions or need assistance regarding this MB, please contact your SNP Specialist. A current list of SNP Specialists is available on the SNP Specialist Directory web page which can be found at You may also email to be directed to your SNP Specialist.

For questions regarding the Summer Meals Programs, please contact the Summer Programs and Grants Unit at

Questions:   Nutrition Services Division | 800-952-5609
Last Reviewed: Friday, March 15, 2024
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