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Disaster Response - Child Nutrition Programs

Nutrition Services Division Management Bulletin

Purpose: Policy, Beneficial Information

To: Child Nutrition Program Sponsors

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

Number: CNP-02-2015

Date: April 2015

Reference: U.S. Department of Agriculture Policy Memorandum SP 46-2014, CACFP 12-2014, and SFSP 18-2014

Supersedes: Management Bulletin USDA-CNP-01-2013, January 2013

Subject: Disaster Response

This Management Bulletin (MB) supersedes MB USDA-CNP-01-2013, issued in January 2013, regarding information and guidance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on steps that state agencies, school food authorities (SFA), institutions, 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 and Adult 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, institutions, or sponsors that must certify these children for free meals.

    Displaced children and adult participants in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) are categorically eligible for free meals in centers and Tier I day care homes, even if they are temporarily residing with another family. The host family may include the displaced family members and any income provided to them on income eligibility forms if the host family applies for free or reduced-price meals.

    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 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. Emergency Shelters in the CACFP
    Emergency shelters providing temporary housing to displaced families are eligible to participate in the CACFP. All children through age eighteen may receive up to three free meals (breakfast, lunch, and supper) each day. State agencies may designate any appropriate facility as an emergency shelter, and may waive institution application requirements, where a significant number of people are being temporarily housed. An appropriate facility may include a school or an institution that, although it is not providing actual shelter, is serving meals to displaced families who are being temporarily housed in locations that may not have the means to provide meal services to temporary residents.

  4. 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

    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. CACFP participants remain eligible for free meal benefits for 12 months.

  5. 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.

  6. Use of Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) or Seamless Summer Feeding Option (SSFO) in Disaster Situations
    State agencies, SFAs, and sponsors may determine that operating SFSP or SSFO sites 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).

  7. 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 02-401: Use of U.S. Department of Agriculture Foods in Disaster Feeding, located on the CDE Food Distribution MB Web page at

    Additional guidance for using USDA Foods during a disaster can be downloaded as a Portable Document Format file from the CDE Web site at [PDF information is no longer relevant, per USDA.]
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 states, SFAs, institutions, 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. State agencies 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, institutions, or sponsors from obtaining fluid milk (7 CFR, sections 210.10[m][2][i], 225.16[f][6], and 226.20[e]). SFAs, institutions, and sponsors should consult with their state agencies if changes to other meal component requirements are needed. For the school nutrition programs, 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. In the CACFP, 7 CFR, Section 226.20(i), allows special variations in the food components of meals.

  2. Flexibility in Accountability and Verification Procedures
    The USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) Regional Offices are authorized to allow state agencies, SFAs, institutions, 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, institutions, or sponsors need to reconstruct unsubmitted claims due to loss of current records, they must consult with their state agency. State agencies 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, institutions, or sponsors should inform their state agencies 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, institutions, and sponsors that are operational, but unable to maintain normal accountability systems—including counting, claiming, and monitoring—must contact their state agencies 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 state agency 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. Flexibility in CACFP, SFSP, and SSFO Site Eligibility
    Based on the significant needs of each community, FNS Regional Offices may waive the CACFP, SFSP, and SSFO requirement that sponsors must document each site is serving an area in which poor economic conditions exist (7 CFR, Section 225.6[c][2]) and Section 226.2 [Tier I day care home]). Site eligibility requirements may be waived for existing eligible sites located in the area damaged by a natural disaster that must relocate to areas that are not eligible based on school or census data.

    Additionally, state agencies may waive the requirement that SFSP sites may not be located at school sites during an unanticipated school closure (7 CFR, Section 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.

  4. 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 an SFA’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.

  5. 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. Applications for reimbursement 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. You can download the NSLP Application for Meal Reimbursement During Disaster from the California Department of Education (CDE) Web site at

For more information on participation in the SSFO, please refer to the CDE Seamless Summer Feeding Option Web page at and USDA Policy Memo SP-39-2014 located on the USDA School Meals Policy Web page at

For more information on processing applications, please refer to Part 3 of the Eligibility Manual for School Meals located on the USDA Guidance and Resources 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

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

Contact Information

If you have questions regarding this MB, please contact the School Nutrition Program Specialist at

Questions:   Nutrition Services Division | 800-952-5609
Last Reviewed: Friday, October 07, 2022
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