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COVID-19 Guidance in the Child Nutrition Programs


Overview

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued nationwide federal waivers and approved state specific requests intended to provide temporary flexibilities to certain regulatory requirements of the Child Nutrition Programs (CNP). The CNPs referenced are the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), School Breakfast Program (SBP), Seamless Summer Option (SSO), School Food Service Program (SFSP), and the Child and Adult Food Program (CACFP). The California Department of Education (CDE) is assisting Program Operators of the CNP by posting policy guidance and waivers, providing information on how to operate the programs during the pandemic, directions on how to claim for reimbursement and COVID-19 funding, providing bi-monthly Townhall webinars for questions and answers and best practices, connecting program operators with resources, answering Frequently Answered Questions (FAQ), and providing contact information for additional assistance. The CDE is striving to continue to support and protect access to nutritious meals for children and adults in California.

For the latest announcements and updates, visit the CDE Nutrition What’s New Disaster Tab web page.

Background

Governor Gavin Newsom issued Executive Order N-26-20 on March 13, 2020, regarding the physical closure of schools by local educational agencies (LEA) in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The order provides that even if schools close temporarily because of COVID-19, LEAs will continue to receive state funding so that they can:

  • Continue delivering high-quality educational opportunities to students to the extent feasible through, among other options, distance learning or independent study;

  • Provide school meals in noncongregate settings through the SFSP and SSO, consistent with the requirements of the CDE and USDA;

  • Arrange for, to the extent practicable, supervision for students during ordinary school hours; and

  • Continue to pay employees.

This guidance provides a framework for how LEAs can continue to deliver high-quality educational and meal opportunities to students when the school site is physically closed and the LEA has suspended onsite instruction. In providing this instruction, it is critical that LEAs take steps to ensure that these opportunities are available to all students, especially disadvantaged students. On March 16, 2020, the California Legislature on approved an initial $100 million for LEAs and child care centers to cover school cleaning expenses to help ensure the safety of staff and students.

President Trump signed into law H.R. 6201, Title II, on March 18, 2020, the COVID-19 Child Nutrition Response Act. This law modifies USDA food assistance and nutrition programs to allow certain waivers to requirements for all federal CNP, which includes, NSLP, SBP, CACFP, SFSP, and SSO.

As the pandemic continues, the USDA Food and Nutrition Service continues to release waivers and guidance to state agencies and program operators. Please refer to the CNP COVID-19 Policy web page for updated information.

Policy

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has issued federal policy waivers to provide flexibility on requirements of the Child Nutrition Programs (CNP) during the COVID-19 pandemic. The USDA also approved state specific waivers submitted by the California Department of Education (CDE) to further address regulatory flexibility during this time. Topics include: Program operation, noncongregate feeding, meal service time flexibility, parent pick-up, area eligibility, meal pattern, offer versus serve, monitoring, food service management, and review requirements for state agencies. The following waivers require additional CDE oversite: (1) Area Eligibility for Seamless Summer Option (SSO)/Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) (Area Eligibility and Area Eligibility of Closed Enrolled Sites), (2) Area Eligibility for Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) at-risk sites, and (3) Meal Pattern Flexibilities for all CNPs. Program operators must maintain written procedures that outline plans to ensure program integrity to avoid duplication of meals served to a child in your meal service distribution.

The CDE NSD will be releasing a midyear assessment survey that all program operators will need to complete. This assessment will provide required information and additional data that the CDE must report back to the USDA. Program operators must maintain written procedures that outline plans to ensure program integrity to avoid duplication of meals served to a child in your meal service distribution. This assessment will occur in the Winter of 2020.

The NSD wants to remind all program operators of the flexibilities provided by Title 2, Code of Federal Regulations, Section 200.320(f)(2), noncompetitive procurements resulting from a public emergency.

To access the policy memos and waivers, visit the CDE CNP COVID-19 Policy Guidance web page.

SNP Operations

Provides COVID-19 related implementation guidance for program operators of the School Nutrition Programs (SNP) that operate the NSLP and the SBP.

On August 31, 2020, the USDA Food and Nutrition Service released new waivers that allow SNP Operators to serve meals through the federal SSO or the SFSP when school is in session and extended previous waivers that were going to expire under these programs. Specifically, the waiver extensions allow:

These waivers were effective immediately and extend to December 31, 2020. The move back to operation under the SSO/SFSP will allow schools to serve meals, in area eligible locations, free to all children 18 and younger without having to collect eligibility documentation and collect meal payments. In addition, schools can be open to the community and not just serve those students enrolled in their district.

Program operators will need to update site applications in the Child Nutrition Information and Payment System (CNIPS) for sites operating under SSO/SFSP. The summer program(s) runs on a slightly different program calendar so you will need to update for August through September for Program Year (PY) 2019–20 and then for the new summer PY 2020–21 starting October through December 31.

Please note that for schools that had opened under the NSLP/SBP, must submit separate claims by program type in CNIPS—separate by NSLP/SBP and SSO/SFSP. Claims may be submitted for meals served between the beginning of School Year 2020–2021 and December 31, 2020 under SSO/SFSP rather than through NSLP/SBP, if the operators have been approved to participate in SSO/SFSP. Any student who paid for their meals must receive a refund for the meal payments.

Program operators may choose to continue to operate under the NSLP/SBP as the USDA released waivers for noncongregate feeding, meal time flexibility, parent pick-up, meal pattern, and offer versus serve for senior high school for the School Year (SY) 2020–21 for NSLP/SBP. Program operators must follow eligibility and standard meal counting and claiming requirements and can only claim meals for their enrolled students.

The waivers that require additional CDE oversite are Area Eligibility (Area Eligibility and Area Eligibility of Closed Enrolled Sites), Area Eligibility for CACFP At-risk sites, and Meal Pattern Flexibilities. Information on applying for these waivers are provided in the sections below.

The CDE NSD will be releasing a midyear assessment survey that all program operators will need to complete. This assessment will provide required information and additional data that the CDE must report back to the USDA. Program operators must maintain written procedures that outline plans to ensure program integrity to avoid duplication of meals served to a child in your meal service distribution. This assessment will occur in the Winter of 2020.

The NSD wants to remind all program operators of the flexibilities provided by Title 2, Code of Federal Regulations, Section 200.320(f)(2), noncompetitive procurements resulting from a public emergency.

If you have any supply chain disruptions from COVID-19 impacts, this provision in federal regulations allows you to use a noncompetitive solicitation to ensure your children continue to receive meals. You must continue to document your procurements and maintain those records for the appropriate allotment of time. For questions regarding this subject, contact the Procurement Resources Unit by phone at 916-322-8323 or by email at SFSContracts@cde.ca.gov.

Noncongregate Feeding and Social Distancing

The noncongregate feeding waiver supports access to nutritious meals while minimizing potential exposure to COVID-19. The noncongregate waiver under the SSO/SFSP program extends through December 31, 2020. The noncongregate waiver under the NSLP/SBP extends through June 30, 2021.

During SY 2020–21, schools may be operating under a hybrid operation where some students will be attending face-to-face instruction and other students will receive instruction through distance learning.

If meals are consumed on-site, the distribution and eating areas need to be created with social distancing protocols such as avoiding lines, arranging tables and chairs six feet apart, spacing the meal service time, or serving meals in the classroom. Tables and eating areas should be properly cleaned and sanitized and additional hand washing stations available to students.

If meals are consumed off-site, the meal distribution sites should be located in areas that are easily accessible to children eligible for free or reduced-price meals. To allow for social distancing, noncongregate meal distribution can vary based on community need and allowability. Examples include:

  • Distributing meals using a school food truck following the school bus routes
  • Sending a box or bag meal(s) home with students for multiple days up to a week at a time
  • Setting up a drive through system in the parking lot to minimize contact. Families can pick up a meal for all children
  • Distributing meals on the weekend for the upcoming week
  • Distributing meals later in the day to allow for easier access for working parents to pick-up meals

Home Delivery

Delivery of meals can be completed by mail, delivery service, or hand-delivered by school staff. This option is only available to districts serving students of their own school sites due to student confidentiality regulations. Schools that choose to deliver meals may serve children who are in area eligible locations, or only those who are eligible for free or reduced-price meals. Children who attend Provision 2 or Community Eligibility Provision school sites are considered eligible for delivered meals.

Before initiating a home meal delivery service, schools must obtain written consent from households of eligible children. This consent can be obtained through email or other electronic means. During this process, schools should also confirm the household’s current address and confirm the number of eligible children in the home to ensure the correct number of meals are delivered to the correct location.

When delivering meals, schools may use a distribution approach that includes meals for multiple days. In such instances, the district should ensure that proper food safety measures and social distancing guidelines are in place. Children do not need to be present for home delivery of meals as long as the school has obtained the household’s written consent.

For more information about meal delivery options with SSO/SFSP during this COVID-19 outbreak, please see the USDA’s COVID-19 SSO/SFSP Meal Delivery Question and Answers External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF).

Meal Time Flexibilities

The meal time flexibility waiver allows for schools to provide meals outside of the prescribed meal service time requirements. The meal time flexibility waiver under the SSO/SFSP extends through December 31, 2020. The meal time flexibility waiver under the NSLP/SBP extends through June 30, 2021. This waiver provides the flexibility to bundle meals together and provide during one distribution. Program operators are still required to establish meal service distribution times for each site approved in CNIPS.

Parent/Guardian Pick-up

The Parent Meal Pick-up Waiver allows eligible program operators to distribute meals to a parent or guardian to take home to their children. The parent/guardian flexibility waiver under the SSO/SFSP program extends through December 31, 2020. The parent/guardian flexibility waiver under the NSLP/SBP extends through June 30, 2021. The USDA has provided guidance that program operators may distribute meals to other authorized individuals acting as parents or guardians of eligible children. In order for program operators to allow individuals other than legal parents or guardians to pick up meals on the behalf of eligible children, the program operator must have an integrity plan or procedure in place to ensure that program accountability is maintained and that duplicate meals are not distributed to any eligible child.

To participate in this waiver the following must be in place and retained:

  • Program operators must have a written plan to ensure they are able to maintain accountability and program integrity, such as using point-of-service systems, sign in sheets, request parent or guardian to identify the age, grade or classroom teacher or ask for student identification number, and post guidelines for parents to see and follow.

  • Program operators must have a written process in place to ensure that meals are distributed only to parents or guardians of eligible children, and that duplicate meals are not provided for any child. Examples include offering parent pick-up at select locations or offering parent pick-up in conjunction with providing meals for multiple days.

Implementation of this waiver by CNP Operators waiver is not mandatory.

Individuals serving meals should follow all COVID-19 prevention and hygiene guidelines including staying home when sick, washing hands for at least 20 seconds prior to handling or distributing food, avoiding touching eyes, nose, and mouth, and cleaning and disinfecting high touch surfaces. The California Department of Public Health has developed COVID-19 food service employee health and personal hygiene information, which can be found in the Resource Section of this guidance.

Area Eligibility Requirements During COVID-19 for SSO/SFSP

The USDA has extended the area eligibility waiver for SSO/SFSP Operators through December 31, 2020. Current regulations require that open sites in the SSO/SFSP be located in areas where at least 50 percent of the participants are eligible for free or reduced-price meals (F/RP). The Area Eligibility waiver allows the CDE to replace the 50 percent threshold with a lower 40 percent threshold. For sites that are below the 40 percent F/RP threshold, the CDE can accept from CNP sponsors additional reasons of how the eligibility rates have changed due to COVID-19, e.g., percentage of business closures in the area, increase in SNAP participation, increased participation in local food banks, or increased unemployment.

To participate in this waiver, an SSO/SFSP sponsor must complete the online CNP Area Eligibility Waiver Application. If you have already applied, you do not need to apply again. However, new sites will require you to submit the application and update CNIPS application.

Area Eligibility Requirements During COVID-19 Closed-enrolled SSO/SFSP Sites

The USDA has extended the waiver for area eligibility for SSO/SFSP Operators for closed enrolled sites through December 31, 2020. This guidance allows the CDE to waive SSO/SFSP regulations to collect applications to determine site eligibility when the closed-enrolled site is area eligible. The waiver will remain in effect until through December 31, 2020.

To participate in this waiver, an SSO/SFSP sponsor must complete the online CNP Area Eligibility Waiver Application. If you have already applied, you do not need to apply again. However, new sites will require you to submit the application and update CNIPS application.

CACFP At Risk Area Eligibility Waiver

On September 18, 2020, the USDA released COVID-19: Child Nutrition Response #58 Nationwide Waiver of Area Eligibility in the Child and Adult Care Food Program At-risk Afterschool Care Component.  This waiver allows schools and afterschool care centers, regardless of their location, to serve At-risk afterschool meals and snacks to students after the regular school day, through December 31, 2020.

In order to streamline the administrative process, we have aligned this waiver with the established state agency plan for SSO/SFSP area eligibility. If your site is located in an area where with at least 40% of the participants are eligible for FRP, then you do not need to opt in to the waiver. For sites that are below the 40% threshold, participants must fill out the online waiver

To participate in this waiver, an CACFP sponsor must complete the online CNP Area Eligibility Waiver Application. If you have already applied, you do not need to apply again. However, new sites will require you to submit the application and update CNIPS application.

Please note the CACFP area eligibly waiver only applies for the CACFP At-Risk Program-all other CACFP operations, are still required to follow all area eligibility requirements.

Meal Pattern Flexibilities

The meal pattern waiver under the SSO/SFSP extends through December 31, 2020. The meal pattern waiver under the NSLP/SBP extends through June 30, 2021. The meal pattern waiver is designed to support access to nutritious meals while minimizing challenges to the food supply chain, noncongregate feeding delivery, and additional food safety measures related to COVID-19. The USDA expects and strongly encourages program operators to maintain and meet the nutrition standards for each program to the greatest extent possible. However, if agencies have justified reasons for not meeting the meal pattern then they may complete a waiver application for specific meal components based on specific program types. Schools may request a meal pattern requirements waiver if they are unable to serve certain menu requirements due to disruptions in the availability of food or other impacts of COVID-19. The CNP Operator must complete the online Meal Pattern Waiver Application.

Once a CNP Operator submits the application, the CDE NSD will send an email notification that the waiver request was approved, or the CNP Operator will be contacted by a nutrition specialist to provide additional technical assistance.

The Meal Pattern Waiver requires you to seek approval on a case by case basis. If your school previously submitted a COVID-19 meal pattern flexibility waiver request while operating the SSO/SFSP during the unanticipated school closures, you do not need to reapply for another waiver under the NSLP/SBP or if returning to SSO/SFSP unless, you need to revise your meal pattern request.

If you need to change your meal pattern waiver from the original request, you do need to submit a new meal pattern waiver application:

Offer Versus Serve

The USDA released a waiver that allows NSLP/SBP Operators of senior high schools to waive the offer versus serve (OVS) requirement though June 30, 2021.

The USDA release guidance that allows SFSP Operators to use OVS. The guidance allows school food authorities (SFA) to use OVS specific to SFSP. The waiver will remain in effect through December 30, 2020.

Monitoring Requirements During COVID-19

Onsite monitoring is a critical part of a sponsor’s ability to ensure the sites they administer comply with the regulations and policies involving the service and safety of meals to their local communities. All SFSP sponsors are required to visit each site during the first week of operation, and review the food service operations at least once during the first four weeks of operation. All SSO sponsors are required to review each site at least once during its operation. In order to accommodate social distancing and its goal of restricting the spread of COVID-19, the USDA is waiving the onsite monitoring requirement.

The USDA released an extension to waive the first week site visits for SFSP Operators through December 31, 2020. This extension allows SFSP Operators to conduct all monitoring visits offsite.

To promote social distancing while maintaining program integrity and federal nutrition and safety standards, the CDE recommends that sponsors perform their monitoring site activities offsite, e.g., desk audit, video visits.

Use of USDA Foods During COVID-19

Due to COVID-19 and the Presidential Major Disaster Declaration for California, CNPs that participate in the USDA Food Distribution Program and have an approved waiver for noncongregate meal service can use their USDA Foods to serve meals during COVID-19.

Additionally, there are two more ways that USDA Foods may be used or donated:

  • If CNP Operators or local educational agencies have excess or perishable USDA Food inventory that they are unable to use, they may donate items to nonprofit or charitable organizations such as food banks. Additional USDA guidance can be found in Management Bulletin CNP-02-2018. Please note that foods donated cannot be claimed as a food loss.

  • Disaster relief organizations may designate CNPs as feeding sites or request that CNPs provide their USDA Foods to other feeding sites. USDA Foods may only be released on request to recognized disaster relief organizations such as the American Red Cross or the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services as outlined in Management Bulletin 02-401 Use of USDA Foods in Disaster Feeding. The USDA stated that during disaster feeding, agencies can use a “to-go” serving method, both maintaining safe health practices and fulfilling congregate feeding requirements.

USDA Foods Entitlement Waiver

On June 16, the USDA issued an Opt-In Waiver for USDA Foods Entitlement Calculations for 2020-21. This waiver is intended to minimize the impact to FDP entitlement funding due to COVID-19 and drops in meal counts the 2019-2020.

The NSD opted in to use the 2018-19 SY meal counts instead of the 2019-20 SY. In addition, the NSD also requested (but have yet been approved) that USDA consider a hybrid calculation that would take the higher meal count for each SFA, so that everyone would receive the maximum benefit possible depending on their individual circumstance. As we hear from the USDA, we will share that information.

If you have any questions regarding the use of USDA Foods during a disaster, please email FoodDistribution@cde.ca.gov.

Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program Grant

On August 21, 2020, the USDA released Policy Memorandum SP 23-2020 Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP) Operations for SY 2020–21 during COVID-19. This document includes questions and answers intended to provide clarification on the operation of the FFVP during COVID-19. The document is available on the USDA FFVP Operations for SY 2020–21 External link opens in new window or tab. web page.

On September 9, 2020, the USDA granted the CDE NSD two waivers for the FFVP for SY 2020–21. The first waiver allows SFAs participating in the FFVP to distribute the FFVP snacks to a parent or guardian on behalf of their child(ren) without the child(ren) being present. The second waiver allows SFAs participating in the FFVP to offer the FFVP snacks at non-FFVP school sites (elementary, middle, or high schools) if the FFVP school(s) is closed or does not have meal service.

The SFAs must demonstrate that the waivers do not result in an increase to the overall cost of the FFVP.

How to Opt-in

If you plan to implement the Parent Pick-up Waiver or the Serving FFVP at Alternate Sites Waiver, send an email to FFVP@cde.ca.gov to opt-in.

When opting-in to use the Parent Pick-Up Waiver, please state how you plan to provide FFVP snacks only to parents or guardians of eligible children, and that no duplicates are distributed to any child. 

When opting-in to use the Serving FFVP at Alternate Sites Waiver, please list the name(s) of the FFVP sites that are closed that will use this waiver and the name(s) of the site(s) that will serve the FFVP snacks while using this waiver. 

Within the next year, all 2020–21 FFVP grantees who opt-in to use the waiver(s) will receive an email to complete a mandatory report(s).

Effective Date

Both the FFVP Parent Pick-up Waiver and Serving FFVP at Alternate Sites Waiver are effective immediately and will remain in effect until June 30, 2021.

If you have any questions regarding this subject, please contact the CDE FFVP Team, by phone at 916-322-9943 or by email at FFVP@cde.ca.gov.

Communication to Families

In order to ensure that parents, guardians, and students are aware of the availability of meals, schools and community organizations should communicate in multiple languages the availability of meals as widely as possible. Communication strategies to consider include:

  • Public announcements on radio or television
  • Email blasts
  • Social media messages
  • Automated phone calls
  • Website announcements
  • Newspaper notifications
  • Community partner newsletters
    • Food banks
    • Mayor’s Office
    • Boys and Girls Club
    • YMCA
    • Community Centers
    • Faith-based organizations

CACFP Operations

Provides COVID-19 related implementation guidance for program operators of the CACFP. CACFP Operators include all types of centers (child and adult care centers, at-risk afterschool [ARA] programs, emergency shelters [ES]) and day care home (DCH) providers.

On June 25, 2020, and August 4, 2020, the USDA Food and Nutrition Services extended previous waivers that were going to expire under the CACFP. Specifically, the waiver extensions allowed:

The one waiver that requires additional CDE oversite is Meal Pattern Flexibilities. Information on applying for this waiver is provided in the section below. The CDE NSD will be releasing a midyear assessment survey that all program operators will need to complete, where we will be obtaining additional data that the CDE must report back to the USDA. This assessment will occur in the Winter of 2020. Program operators must maintain written procedures that outline plans to ensure program integrity to avoid duplication of meals served to a child in your meal service distribution.

The CDE NSD will be releasing a midyear assessment survey that all program operators will need to complete. This assessment will provide required information and additional data that the CDE must report back to the USDA. Program operators must maintain written procedures that outline plans to ensure program integrity to avoid duplication of meals served to a child in your meal service distribution. This assessment will occur in the Winter of 2020.

The NSD wants to remind all program operators of the flexibilities provided by Title 2, Code of Federal Regulations, Section 200.320(f)(2), noncompetitive procurements resulting from a public emergency.

If you have any supply chain disruptions from COVID-19 impacts, this provision in federal regulations allows you to use a noncompetitive solicitation to ensure your children continue to receive meals. You must continue to document your procurements and maintain those records for the appropriate allotment of time. For questions regarding this subject, contact the Procurement Resources Unit by phone at 916-322-8323 or by email at SFSContracts@cde.ca.gov.

Noncongregate Feeding

The noncongregate feeding waiver supports access to nutritious meals while minimizing potential exposure to COVID-19. The noncongregate waiver under the CACFP extends through June 30, 2021. For CACFP noncongregate COVID-19 meal service, only enrolled infants, children, and adults (in adult DCH and centers) are eligible to receive meals.

If meals are consumed on site, the distribution and eating areas need to be created with social distancing protocols such as avoiding lines, arranging tables and chairs six feet apart, and spacing the meal service time. Tables and eating areas should be properly cleaned and sanitized and additional hand washing stations available to students.

If meals are consumed offsite, the meal distribution sites should be located in areas that are easily accessible to the children you serve. To allow for social distancing, noncongregate meal distribution can vary based on community need and allowability. Examples include:

  • Distributing meals using a food distribution truck
  • Sending a box or bag meal(s) home with children for multiple days
  • Setting up a drive through system in the parking lot to minimize contact. Families can drive through and pick up a meal their children.
  • Distributing meals on the weekend for the upcoming week
  • Distributing meals later in the day to allow for easier access for working parents to pick-up meals

Home Delivery

CACFP sponsors may deliver meals directly to the homes of children or adults participating in CACFP. Delivery of meals can be completed by mail, delivery service, or hand-delivered by staff, volunteers, community organizations, or others.

Before initiating a home meal delivery service, CACFP sponsors much first obtain written consent from households of eligible children or participating adults. This consent can be obtained through email or other electronic means. During this process, CACFP sponsors should also confirm the household’s current address and confirm the number of eligible children or participating adults in the home to ensure the correct number of meals are delivered to the correct location. The CACFP sponsor must take all necessary actions to ensure that the confidential information is handled appropriately at all times and by all organizations involved with meal delivery.

When delivering meals, CACFP sponsors may use a distribution approach that includes meals for multiple days. In such instances, the sponsor should ensure that proper food safety measures and social distancing guidelines are in place. Children and adults participating in CACFP do not need to be present for home delivery of meals as long as the CACFP sponsor has obtained the household’s written consent. If the meals are shelf stable, no one need be present, as long as the address has been verified. CACFP sponsors should always consider state and local food safety requirements and best practices.

For more information about CACFP meal delivery options during COVID-19, please see USDA’s CNP Meal Service during Novel Coronavirus Outbreaks: Questions and Answers #3 External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF).

Meal Service Times Flexibilities

The meal time flexibility waiver allows for CACFP Operators to provide meals outside of the prescribed meal service time requirements. The meal time flexibility waiver under the CACFP extends through June 30, 2021. This waiver provides the flexibility to bundle meals together and provide during one distribution. Program operators are still required to establish meal service distribution times for each site approved in Child Nutrition Information and Payment System.

CACFP Operators may serve any one of the following combinations: 

  • Breakfast, lunch, and a snack
  • Breakfast, dinner, and a snack
  • Breakfast and two snacks
  • Lunch, dinner, snack
  • Lunch and two snacks
  • Dinner and two snacks

CACFP Operators can contact their county specialist with questions regarding allowable meal combinations or email CACFPWAIVER@cde.ca.gov with any additional questions regarding the COVID-19 CACFP waiver process.

Meal Pattern Flexibilities

The meal pattern waiver under the CACFP extends through June 30, 2021. The meal pattern waiver is designed to support access to nutritious meals while minimizing challenges to the food supply chain, noncongregate feeding delivery, menu design, and additional food safety measures related to COVID-19. The USDA and the CDE NSD encourage CACFP Operators to meet the nutrition standards for child care centers, child care homes, ARA care centers, ES, and adult DCH to the greatest extent possible. However, we are aware that CACFP Operators may experience challenges in the availability of some food and beverage items that contribute to a reimbursable meal. For example, CACFP Operators who are required to provide whole grain-rich foods may have difficulty obtaining them due to shortages during COVID-19. CACFP Operators may request a meal pattern requirements waiver if they are unable to serve certain menu requirements due to disruptions in the availability of food or other impacts of COVID-19. The CACFP Operator must complete the online Meal Pattern Waiver Application.

Once a CACFP Operator submits the application, the CDE NSD will send an email notification that the waiver request was approved, or the CACFP Operator will be contacted by a nutrition specialist to provide additional technical assistance.

The Meal Pattern Waiver requires you to seek approval on a case by case basis. If you previously submitted a COVID-19 meal pattern flexibility waiver request, you do not need to reapply for another waiver unless, you need to revise your meal pattern request.

If you need to change your meal pattern waiver from the original request, you do need to submit a revised request.

CACFP Operators may email CNPMealPatternWaiver@cde.ca.gov with additional questions regarding meal pattern requirements.

The CACFP has three meal patterns based on age group: infants, children, and adults. Below are the links to each meal pattern.

CNP Operators may email CNPMealPatternWaiver@cde.ca.gov with additional questions regarding meal pattern requirements.

Parent/Guardian Pick-up

The parent/guardian pick-up waiver under the CACFP extends through June 30, 2021. The Parent Meal Pick-up Waiver allows eligible program operators to distribute meals to a parent or guardian to take home to their children.

There are no additional requirements to notify the CDE NSD that the waiver has been implemented. However, program operators must have a written plan and retain accurate records of the meals served under the waiver and report to the CDE NSD at the conclusion of the COVID-19 emergency feeding.

To participate in this waiver the following plans must be in place and retained:

  • Program Operators must have a written plan to ensure they are able to maintain accountability and program integrity. Such as using point-of-service systems, request parent or guardian to identify the age, grade or classroom teacher or ask for student identification number, and post guidelines for parents to see and follow.

  • Program Operators must have a written process in place to ensure that meals are distributed only to parents or guardians of eligible children, and that duplicate meals are not provided for any child. Examples include only offering parent  pick-up at select locations or offering parent pick-up in conjunction with providing meals for multiple days.

Implementation of this waiver by CACFP Operators is not mandatory.

CACFP At Risk Area Eligibility Waiver

On September 18, 2020, the USDA released COVID-19: Child Nutrition Response #58 Nationwide Waiver of Area Eligibility in the Child and Adult Care Food Program At-risk Afterschool Care Component.  This waiver allows schools and afterschool care centers, regardless of their location, to serve At-risk afterschool meals and snacks to students after the regular school day, through December 31, 2020.

In order to streamline the administrative process, we have aligned this waiver with the established state agency plan for SSO/SFSP area eligibility. If your site is located in an area where with at least 40% of the participants are eligible for FRP, then you do not need to opt in to the waiver. For sites that are below the 40% threshold, participants must fill out the online waiver

To participate in this waiver, an CACFP sponsor must complete the online Area Eligibility Waiver Application. If you have already applied, you do not need to apply again. However, new sites will require you to submit the application and update CNIPS application.

Please note the CACFP area eligibly waiver only applies for the CACFP At-Risk Program-all other CACFP operations, are still required to follow all area eligibility requirements.

Monitoring Requirements

The monitoring waiver under the CACFP extends through September 30, 2021. Onsite monitoring is a critical part of a CACFP sponsor’s ability to ensure the sites they administer comply with the regulations and policy involving the service and safety of meals to their local communities. Normally, all CACFP sponsors are required to review each site three times a year, with two of those visits being unannounced, and no more than six months between reviews. In order to accommodate social distancing and its goal of restricting the spread of COVID-19, the USDA is waiving all onsite monitoring activities, and allowing sponsors to review each site two times a year, with one of those visits being unannounced. Also, the unannounced visit does not have to include a meal service.

Although the USDA has waived the sponsor’s onsite monitoring requirements for existing sites, the waiver does not remove all of the administrative requirements sponsors must follow when adding a new site. All new sites must still meet the federal requirements at Title 7, Code of Federal Regulations, Section 226.6(d). Below are some of the requirements described in the federal regulation:

  • Licensing requirements or staff/child ratios
  • Health and safety requirements for ESs
  • Health/sanitation permit
  • Fire/building safety permit
  • Suitability of facilities

USDA is allowing some flexibility for new site reviews. The CACFP sponsor must still conduct a review in the first four weeks of operation, but it can be done through a desk audit.

Communication to Families

In order to ensure that parents, guardians, and students are aware of the availability of meals, schools and community organizations should communicate in multiple languages the availability of meals as widely as possible. Communication strategies to consider include:

  • Public announcements on radio or television
  • Email blasts
  • Social media messages
  • Automated phone calls
  • Website announcements
  • Newspaper notifications
  • Community partner newsletters
    • Food banks
    • Mayor’s Office
    • Boys and Girls Club
    • YMCA
    • Community Centers
    • Faith-based organizations

Claiming and Reimbursements

The information outlined below pertains to the COVID-19 pandemic emergency only. The 2020 Budget Act, Section 118 External link opens in new window or tab. includes specific and unique requirements for COVID-19 disaster claims which are addressed below. Please note: Regular monthly claims for reimbursement for meals served must still be submitted electronically in the Child Nutrition Information and Payment System web page External link opens in new window or tab..

For all content related to typical state or federally declared disasters, visit the Disaster Guidance for CNPs web page.

Eligibility for Proposition 98 COVID-19 Disaster Claims

Eligible program operators include school districts, county offices of education (COE), charter schools, residential childcare institutions, and private schools. A program operator participating in the National School Lunch, School Breakfast, and/or Summer Food Service Programs with some or all sites that temporarily closed or experienced a reduction in meals service due to the COVID-19 pandemic emergency and has made an effort to serve eligible meals to eligible pupils during the closure event, is eligible to file a claim to help offset fixed expenses, such as salaries and benefits that continue to incur during COVID-19 closures.

Compliance

All school districts and COEs that apply for disaster relief must demonstrate compliance with the applicable procedures required in the Disaster Relief Act of 1974, Public Law 93-288, as amended by Public Law 100-707 (California Education Code (EC) Section 49505[e] External link opens in new window or tab.).

Application Information

Prior to completing the COVID-19 application, please review the Frequently Asked Questions regarding COVID-19 Pandemic Relief which provides detailed guidance regarding the application process.

There are two Prop 98 COVID-19 Disaster Applications to allow claims for both Fiscal Years (FY). The final filing date for both applications is Friday, October 30, 2020.

  1. March–June 2020 Prop. 98 COVID-19 Reimbursement
    Covers closures from March through June 2020 and falls within Fiscal Year (FY) 2019–20.

  2. July–August 2020 Prop. 98 COVID-19 Reimbursement
    Covers July and August 2020 claims, which fall within FY 2020–21.

If the information you provide to the CDE in the application (either the online application or the Excel document) changes or needs to be corrected, you must contact your Fiscal Analyst to ensure the most accurate information is evaluated for disaster relief reimbursement. Please email NSDDisasterClaims@cde.ca.gov and include the following information in the subject line: (1) your county name, and, (2) CNIPS ID.

Reimbursement Calculation

The disaster claim amount is determined by multiplying the average daily participation (number of meals served) in the month prior to the disaster by the average combined state and federal reimbursement rate. That amount is then multiplied by the number of days the program operator was closed or experienced a reduction in meal service due to the disaster. The disaster reimbursement calculations are based on criteria found in the 2020 Budget Act, Sec. 118 External link opens in new window or tab..

Reimbursement Priority

The 2020 Budget Act, Section 118 External link opens in new window or tab. establishes a priority order for COVID-19 disaster claim payments:

  • Priority 1: A program operator that made an effort to serve eligible meals to eligible pupils and had some or all sites that closed and served zero meals is eligible for COVID-19 disaster relief.

  • Priority 2: A program operator that served a reduced number of eligible meals to eligible pupils is eligible for COVID-19 disaster relief is eligible for COVID-19 disaster relief. Payment of Priority 2 claims are contingent upon the availability of Prop 98 funds after Priority 1 claims have been paid.

Note: If you have some sites that were closed and other sites that were open and serving a reduced number of meals, the CDE will first determine the total reimbursement for sites that were closed. If Prop 98 funds remain available, the CDE will determine reimbursements for sites that remained open and served a reduced number of meals. Whether your entire claim falls under one priority or both, the CDE will be issuing just one payment check for the entire COVID-19 disaster claim.

Reimbursement Payment

Approved COVID-19 disaster relief payments will be made from and are contingent on available Prop 98 state funding. If the CDE does not have sufficient funds to reimburse all disaster claims, then all reimbursement amounts will be prorated.

Currently, disaster reimbursements are not an allowable use of federal funds. However, in accordance with the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act $112,231,000 has been allocated from the Federal Trust Fund to increase rates for meals served during the COVID-19 pandemic. The additional rate, not to exceed $0.75, will be applied to breakfasts and lunches served after the COVID-19 closures began in March 2020 through August 2020, or until funds expire. Unlike the pandemic relief provided through the disaster claims process for Prop 98 state funds, program operators will not need to apply for this additional rate from federal CARES Act funds. For more information regarding CARES Act pandemic relief, please visit the CARES Reimbursement Tool for March 2020 web page.

Approved disaster relief payments will be made by check directly to program operators. The CDE anticipates COVID-19 disaster payments for March through August 2020 claims will be made sometime during early Spring 2021.

Claim Rates

For claim rates by program and year of operation, visit the CDE Rates, Eligibility Scales, and Funding web page.

References

For regulatory information regarding COVID-19 disaster claims, visit the 2020 Budget Act, Sec. 118 External link opens in new window or tab..

For regulatory information regarding typical disaster claims, visit the EC Section 49505(c) External link opens in new window or tab..

For more information, visit the CDE Disaster Response–CNP Management Bulletin CNP-02-2015 web page.

Recorded Webinars

During the COVID-19 disaster, there are questions, sharing, and best practices that can help program operators navigate through this time of many unknowns. The CDE has hosted a Tuesday Townhall meeting to help program operators hear the latest news from the CDE, and hear from colleges and their strategies, perspectives, and best practices. Below are the recorded webinars from previous meetings. To participate in the live Townhall meetings, the announcements and details are posted on the CDE NSD Nutrition What’s New Disaster Tab web page.

Title Applicable to
October 20, 2020, Tuesday @ 2: School Nutrition Town Hall Webinar SNP, SSO, SFSP
October 6, 2020, Tuesday @ 2: School Nutrition Town Hall Webinar SNP, SSO, SFSP

September 22, 2020, Tuesday @ 2: School Nutrition Town Hall Webinar

SNP Operators, Chief Business Officers (CBO), Food Service Directors (FSD), and Superintendents

August 25, 2020, Tuesday @ 2: School Nutrition Town Hall Webinar

SNP Operators, CBOs, FSDs, and Superintendents

August 11, 2020, Tuesday @ 2: School Nutrition Town Hall Webinar

SNP Operators, CBOs, FSDs, and Superintendents

July 28, 2020, Tuesday @ 2: School Nutrition Town Hall Webinar

SNP Operators, CBOs, FSDs, and Superintendents

July 14, 2020, Tuesday @ 2: School Nutrition Town Hall SNP Operators, CBOs, FSDs, and Superintendents

June 30, 2020, Tuesday @ 2: School Nutrition Town Hall Webinar

SNP Operators, CBOs, FSDs, and Superintendents

June 9 and June 16, 2020, Tuesday @ 2: School Nutrition Town Hall Webinars

SNP Operators, CBOs, FSDs, and Superintendents

May 19, 2020, Thought Partners Webinar

SNP Operators, CBOs, FSDs, and Superintendents

Additional Webinars

For additional webinars, visit the Institute of Child Nutrition’s School Nutrition Association COVID-19 On-demand Webinars External link opens in new window or tab..

Resources

Below are resources to help support program operators and staff during COVID- 19. 

Summer Meals

Title Description

CDE SFSP Meal Pattern Guidance and Sample Menus

Includes guidance and sample menus to provide CNP Operators with ideas for how to serve meals that meet the SFSP meal pattern requirements.

USDA SFSP Meal Pattern Web page External link opens in new window or tab.

The summer meal pattern for breakfast, snack, lunch, and supper for grades K–12.

USDA COVID-19 SFSP and SSO Meal Delivery Questions and Answer Guides External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF)

The Question and Answer guide for serving meals during COVID-19.

CDE Serving Summer Meals During School Closures Due to COVID-19 Fact Sheet (PDF)

This handout is a quick reference fact sheet for Serving Summer Meals During School Closures Due to COVID-19 for the SFSP and the SSO.

USDA SSO: Providing Multiple Meals at a Time During COVID-19 Pandemic Fact Sheet External link opens in new window or tab.

SSO: Providing Multiple Meals at a Time During the Coronavirus Pandemic

CDE: CNP Flexibilities During COVID-19 Fact Sheet (PDF)

 

This handout summarizes the guidance and flexibilities for School Nutrition Programs (SNP) operating the SSO, SFSP and CACFP Operators during COVID-19 school closures or site dismissals.

Access to Food

Title Description

California Department of Social Services (CDSS) Pandemic EBT Inquiry Form web page External link opens in new window or tab..

The CDSS and the CDE, in a joint effort, are administering the federal Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program. As of July 27, 2020, the CDSS has issued P-EBT cards to over 3.5 million children throughout the state, providing over $1.3 billion to eligible families.

California Department of Food and Agriculture’s (CDFA) Certified List of California Producers by County External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF)

The CDFA has created the certified list that will provide a list of farmer’s market sellers. As this is a nationally declared emergency, please note that Title 2,Code of Federal Regulations, Section 200.320(f)(2), allows sponsors to engage in noncompetitive solicitations due to supply chain disruptions.

CDE CNPs Community Engagement Response to COVID-19 (PDF)

CNP are important to maximize food resources, support disaster relief, and promote food assistance programs. This web page provides CNP Operators resources to assist communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

CDE Providing Bulk Foods During the COVID-19 Pandemic Fact Sheets (PDF)

This handout provides Questions and Answers for CNP Operators in regards to using and offering bulk foods.

Best Practices

Title Description

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Considerations for Schools External link opens in new window or tab.

The CDC best practices for returning to school.

USDA CNP Meal Service During COVID-19 Fact Sheet External link opens in new window or tab.

This fact sheet contains best practices for parent pick-up of meals and snacks, helpful suggestions, and safety reminders.

Meal Service for CACFP Operators during COVID-19 (PDF) This tip sheet provides CACFP Operators with guidance on reducing the likelihood of COVID-19 transmission during CACFP meal service, a list of frequently asked questions and answers, and suggestions for supporting children at meals while family style meal service is not in practice.

Safety Information

Title Description

CDE A Guidebook for the Safe Reopening of California's Public Schools

This guidance was created through the statewide reopening schools task force that fostered a collaborative process for our educators and stakeholders to lend their important voices. Also informed by the technical assistance and advice of many health and safety organizations including the CDC, California Department of Public Health (CDPH), California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, the intent of this document is to be a guide for the local discussion on safely reopening schools.

CDE COVID-19 Health and Safety Considerations During Food Service Preparation and Delivery Fact Sheet (PDF)

This handout provides best practices to ensure the health and safety of staff and the public when providing meals during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

CDE Creating an Emotionally Healthy and Safe Child Nutrition Environment in Challenging Times Fact Sheet (PDF)

This handout provides suggestions on how to create an emotionally healthy and safe child nutrition environment in this challenging time.

CDE COVID-19 Health and Safety Considerations During Food Service Preparation and Delivery Fact Sheet (PDF)

This handout provides best practices to ensure the health and safety of staff and the public when providing meals during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

CDE Safe Food Handling Practices During COVID-19 Fact Sheet (PDF)

This handout is for program operators to provide in student meals, to demonstrate safe food handling practices for families receiving meals during COVID-19.

CDC How to Protect Yourself and Others Fact Sheet External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF)

This handout talks about how COVID-19 spreads and we can all do to decrease the spread.

CDC What you need to Know About COVID-19 to Protect Yourself and Others Fact Sheet External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF)

This handout explains what COVID-19 is, how it is spread, what to do if you contract it, social distancing practices and more

CDC Use of Cloth Face Coverings to Help Slow the Spread of COVID-19 External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF)

This web page gives information about what types of cloth face coverings to choose and how to wear them properly.

World Central Kitchen and James Beard Foundation Safety First: Serving Food and Protecting People During COVID-19 External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF)

This guide book titled Safety First: Serving Food and Protecting people during COVID-19 assists food service staff in keeping everyone safe.

Other Resources

Title Description

USDA Feeding Kids When Schools Are Closed Due to COVID-19 Fact Sheet External link opens in new window or tab.

Fact sheet on the USDA meal waivers and feeding kids when schools are closed due to COVID-19.

CDPH School Guidance External link opens in new window or tab.

The CDPH web page provides updates and information on COVID-19 guidance.

USDA Guidance on Human Pandemic Responses External link opens in new window or tab.

The USDA Guidance on Human Pandemic Response web page. This web page includes, Automatic State Flexibilities, Additional USDA Authorities, Partnering to Ensure Access to Food, USDA Information, and Federal Resources.

California Volunteers Office of the Governor External link opens in new window or tab.

This web page is a place to sign-up and join California for All, so we can all safely help our communities in response to COVID-19. Here are some ways you can make a difference: donate to food banks, donate blood, check-in on neighbors, support nonprofits, deliver meals to seniors in need and more.

School Nutrition Association Thought Starters on Opening schools For School Year 2020–21 External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF)

This resource is a thought starter for food service directors and staff, that gives information on procurement priorities, staffing strategies, tackling trainings, monitoring staff health, cleaning and sanitizing and more!

FAQs

The CDE NSD is providing frequently asked questions (FAQ) to help clarify both state and federal policy and operational questions for the program operators in the CNPs during the COVID-19 pandemic. The following FAQ scan assist program operators who may have questions on how to operate their programs based on the policy guidance released. To access the FAQs, visit the CDE CNP COVID-19 FAQ web page.

Contacts

School Nutrition Program (SNP) Analysts

For questions regarding the SNP, contact your SNP Analyst on the CDE SNP Specialist Directory web page.

CACFP Analysts

For questions regarding the CACFP, contact your CACFP Analyst on the CDE CACFP Contact List web page.

SFSP Team

For questions regarding the SFSP, you can contact the Community Nutrition Programs Administration Office Technician by phone at 916-324-6153 or the SFSP team by email at SFSP@cde.ca.gov.

USDA Foods Team

For more information about USDA Foods, contact the Food Distribution Unit by email at FoodDistribution@cde.ca.gov.

Claims and Reimbursement Analysts

If you need assistance with your disaster reimbursement claims, please contact your assigned fiscal analyst on the CDE Nutrition Services web page, under the Analyst Directory Tab.

If you have any questions regarding meeting the disaster reimbursement claims, contact the NSD at NSDDisasterClaims@cde.ca.gov.

CNP Meal Pattern Waiver Assistance

If you have any questions regarding meeting the CNP meal pattern requirements, please contact the NSD at CNPMealPatternWaiver@cde.ca.gov.

FFVP Team

If you have questions regarding the FFVP program, contact the FFVP at FFVP@cde.ca.gov.

Questions:   Nutrition Services Division | 800-952-5609
Last Reviewed: Tuesday, November 17, 2020
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