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COVID-19 Guidance in the Child Nutrition Programs


Overview

In response to the Novel Coronavirus (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), Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), and the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP). The California Department of Education (CDE) is assisting program operators of the CNP by posting policy guidance and waivers, and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ). For the latest announcements and updates, visit the CDE Nutrition What’s New 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

  • Continue to pay employees

This guidance provides a framework for how LEAs can continue to deliver high-quality education and meals to students when the school site is physically closed and the LEA has suspended onsite 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 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.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act was signed into law on March 18, 2020. Division B (Nutrition Waivers), Title II (COVID-19 Child Nutrition Response Act) of this law authorizes the USDA to waive certain requirements for all federal CNPs, including SBP, NSLP, CACFP, SFSP, SSO, and FFVP.

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 USDA has issued federal policy waivers to provide flexibility on requirements of the CNPs during the COVID-19 pandemic. The USDA also approved state specific waivers submitted by the CDE to further address regulatory flexibility during this time. Waivers include: Program operation, noncongregate feeding, meal service time flexibility, parent pick-up, area eligibility, meal pattern, offer versus serve (OVS), monitoring, food service management, and review requirements for state agencies. The following waivers require additional CDE oversite: (1) Area Eligibility for SSO/SFSP (Area Eligibility and Area Eligibility of Closed Enrolled Sites), (2) Area Eligibility for CACFP At-risk sites, and (3) Meal Pattern Flexibilities for all CNPs.

To access the policy memos and waivers, visit the CDE COVID-19 Policy and Waivers in CNPs web page.

School Nutrition Program 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 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:

These waivers were effective immediately and extend through June 30, 2021. With the exception of four waivers, these waivers are automatically applied to all school food authorities (SFA) in California; the four waivers that you must opt into are: the meal pattern flexibilities, the local school wellness policy (LSWP) triennial assessment, and the two area eligibility waivers, if they apply. Please note: The LSWP waiver opt-in period closed June 30, 2020.

  • To opt into the meal pattern flexibilities, the CNP Operator must complete the COVID-19 Meal Pattern Waiver Application. Once a CNP Operator submits the application, the CDE Nutrition Services Division (NSD) will send an email notification that the waiver request was approved. If the CNP Operator does not receive an email notification or has additional questions, send an email to CNPMealPatternWaiver@cde.ca.gov and CDE NSD staff will follow up.

  • To opt into an area eligibility waiver, an SSO/SFSP sponsor must complete the CNP Area Eligibility Waiver Application. A waiver is required for each site, and, once approved, program operators must update their Child Nutrition Information and Payment System (CNIPS) application.

If you use the flexibilities allowed by any waivers in your operations, you must have an integrity plan.

Operating 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 or meal payments. In addition, schools can be open to the community and not just serve those students enrolled in their district.

Program operators should update site applications in the CNIPS for sites operating under SSO/SFSP. The summer program(s) have a slightly different program calendar so program operators need to update SSO/SFSP for August through September for Program Year (PY) 2019–20 and then for the new summer PY 2020–21 October through June 30, 2021.

Please note that schools that opened under the NSLP/SBP, must submit separate claims by program type in CNIPS—separated by NSLP/SBP and SSO/SFSP. Claims may be submitted for meals served between the beginning of School Year (SY) 2020–21 and June 30, 2021, under SSO/SFSP rather than through NSLP/SBP, if the operators have been approved to participate in SSO/SFSP retroactively. 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 OVS for senior high school for 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.

More information on the waivers that require additional CDE oversite- Area Eligibility, Area Eligibility of Closed Enrolled Sites, Area Eligibility for CACFP At-risk sites, and Meal Pattern Flexibilities, is provided in the sections below.

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. You must continue to document your procurements and maintain those records for the appropriate amount 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. Please also review the COVID-19 FAQ web page related to procurement.

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 and NSLP/SBP programs 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 designed with social distancing protocols in mind, such as proper shielding between nutrition services staff and students, avoiding overcrowded 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 handwashing stations should be 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 and reduced-price (F/RP) 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 boxed or bagged meal(s) home with students for up to a week (seven days) 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 program operators 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 F/RP 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). Please also review the CDE COVID-19 FAQs web page related to procurement.

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 and NSLP/SBP extends through June 30, 2021. This waiver provides the flexibility to bundle meals together and to provide all of them during one distribution. Program operators are still required to establish meal service distribution times for each site approved in CNIPS.

Parent or 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 or guardian flexibility waiver under the SSO/SFSP and NSLP/SBP program extends through June 30, 2021. The USDA has provided additional flexibilities that program operators may distribute meals to other authorized individuals on behalf of parents or guardians of eligible children to pick up meals. 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, guardian, or authorized individuals 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, guardians, or authorized individuals 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 program operators 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 Resources tab.

Area Eligibility Requirements During COVID-19 for SSO/SFSP

The USDA has extended the area eligibility waiver for SSO/SFSP Operators through June 30, 2021. 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 F/RP meals. 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 are operating at a site that has not already been approved, then you will need to apply for a new site waiver and update your CNIPS application.

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

The USDA has extended the waiver for area eligibility for SSO/SFSP Operators for closed enrolled sites through June 30, 2021. 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.

To participate in this waiver, an SSO/SFSP sponsor must complete the online CNP Area Eligibility Waiver Application. If you are operating at a site that has not already been approved, then you will need to apply for a new site waiver and update your CNIPS application.

CACFP At-risk Area Eligibility Waiver

On October 9, 2020, the USDA released COVID-19: Child Nutrition Response #68 Nationwide Waiver of Area Eligibility in the CACFP At-risk Afterschool Care Meal 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 June 30, 2021.

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 at least 40 percent of the participants are eligible for F/RP, then you do not need to opt in to the waiver. For sites that are below the 40 percent threshold, participants must fill out the online waiver.

To participate in this waiver, a 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 your CNIPS application.

Please note the CACFP area eligibility waiver only applies to the CACFP At-risk Afterschool Meals Component.

Meal Pattern Flexibilities

The COVID-19 meal pattern waiver for NSLP, SBP, CACFP, SSO, and SFSP extends through June 30, 2021. Additional information regarding the CACFP is below.

The COVID-19 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 justifiable reasons for not meeting the meal pattern, then they may complete a waiver application for specific meal components based on specific program types. Agencies may request a COVID-19 meal pattern waiver if they are unable to serve certain menu requirements due to impacts of COVID-19. The CNP Operator must complete the online COVID-19 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. If the CNP Operator does not receive an email notification or has additional questions, send an email to CNPMealPatternWaiver@cde.ca.gov and CDE NSD staff will follow up.

The COVID-19 meal pattern waiver requires you to seek approval on a case-by-case basis. All COVID-19 meal pattern waivers previously submitted for any program and meal components remain in effect through June 30, 2021. Agencies must submit additional COVID-19 meal pattern waivers for any additional programs or meal components as needed.

OVS in SFSP

The USDA released a waiver that allows NSLP/SBP Operators of senior high schools to waive the OVS requirement through June 30, 2021.

The USDA released guidance that allows SFSP/SSO Operators to use OVS. The guidance allows school food authorities (SFA) to use OVS specific to SFSP. The waiver will remain in effect through June 30, 2021.

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 June 30, 2021. 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 (FDP) and have opted into a waiver for noncongregate meal service can use their USDA Foods to serve noncongregate 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 SY 2018–19 meal counts instead of SY 2019–20. In addition, the NSD also requested that the 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 circumstances. The USDA has denied the alternative calculation and the SY 2018–19 formula was applied to entitlement funding.

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 October 23, 2020, the USDA released policy memorandum SP 03-2021 FFVP Operations for SY 2020–21 during COVID-19 External link opens in new window or tab.. It provides questions and answers intended to clarify the operations of the FFVP during the COVID-19 public health emergency for SY 2020–21. The policy memo remains in effect until June 30, 2021.

Some of the highlights covered in the USDA Policy memo SP 03-2021 include:

  • Question #8: FFVP foods may only be provided at elementary schools currently approved to operate the program. However, if the FFVP awarded elementary school is operating as an open site, FFVP foods may be provided to any children attending the site.

  • Question #9: FFVP funds may not be used to purchase fruits and vegetables for the SFSP and SSO. However, if an FFVP awarded elementary school is operating as an open site, it may provide FFVP foods as a separate benefit, along with the service of SFSP/SSO meals.

  • Question #11: If the FFVP awarded elementary school operating as an open site is delivering SFSP/SSO meals to households, then the FFVP foods can be provided to all children in the household regardless of age.

  • Question #12: FFVP funds from an FFVP awarded elementary school that has ceased operations can be reallocated for use at the remaining open FFVP awarded elementary school(s). Please note that the required per-student funding level of $50–$75 per student for the school year still applies. 

    Note: If your SFA would like to reallocate the FFVP funds from a closed FFVP awarded elementary school site to an open FFVP awarded elementary school site, please send an email to FFVP@cde.ca.gov and indicate:

    • The closed FFVP school site(s)
    • The amount that will be reallocated from the closed FFVP school site(s)
    • To which open FFVP school site(s) you will be reallocating the funds to

    After reviewing and approving the SFA’s request, the California FFVP Team will update the CNIPS for the SFA’s 2020–21 FFVP second allocation.
  • Question #13: FFVP awarded elementary schools that are not open during COVID-19 may not purchase produce with FFVP funds and then provide it to an alternate meal site. However, as stated in Question #12, SFAs may request the California FFVP Team to reallocate the FFVP funds from a closed FFVP awarded elementary school site to an open FFVP awarded elementary school site.

On September 9, 2020, the USDA granted the CDE NSD two waivers for the FFVP for SY 2020–21:

  • The FFVP Parent Pick-up Waiver allows SFAs participating in the FFVP to distribute the FFVP snacks to a parent or guardian on behalf of their eligible child(ren) without the child(ren) being present.

  • The Serving FFVP at Alternate Sites Waiver allows SFAs participating in the FFVP to offer the FFVP snacks to elementary school children at non-FFVP school sites (elementary, middle, or high schools) if the FFVP school is closed or does not have meal service.

If you plan to use the flexibilities in these waivers, please send an email to FFVP@cde.ca.gov.

Please contact the CDE FFVP Team by email at FFVP@cde.ca.gov with any questions.

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 as widely as possible and in multiple languages the availability of meals. 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, specifically:

With a few exceptions, these waivers are automatically applied to all CACFP Operators in California; the waivers that you must opt into are: the meal pattern flexibilities and the area eligibility waiver, if they apply.

  • To opt into the meal pattern flexibilities, the CNP Operator must complete the COVID-19 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. If the CNP Operator does not receive an email notification or has additional questions, send an email to CNPMealPatternWaiver@cde.ca.gov and CDE NSD staff will follow up.

  • Please note the CACFP area eligibility waiver only applies to the CACFP At-risk Afterschool Meal Component. To opt into an area eligibility waiver, an SSO/SFSP sponsor must complete the online CNP Area Eligibility Waiver Application. Of note, if your site is in an area where at least 40 percent of the participants are eligible for F/RP, then you do not need to opt in to the waiver. For sites that are below the 40 percent threshold, Program Operators must fill out the online waiver. A waiver is required for each site, and, once approved, Program Operators must update their CNIPS application.

If you use the flexibilities allowed by any waivers in your operations, you must have an integrity plan.

More information on the waivers that require additional CDE oversite, including area eligibility for CACFP at-risk sites and meal pattern flexibilities, is provided in the sections below.

The NSD also 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. You must continue to document your procurements and maintain those records for the appropriate amount 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. Please also review the COVID-19 FAQ web page related to procurement.

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 designed with social distancing protocols in mind, such as proper shielding between nutrition services staff and students, avoiding overcrowded 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 should be 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 boxed or bagged meal(s) home with children for up to a week (seven days) at a time

  • Setting up a drive-through system in the parking lot to minimize contact

  • Distributing meals on the weekend for the upcoming week

  • Distributing meals outside of the 9 a.m.–5 p.m. business day to allow for easier access for working parents to pick-up meals

Home Delivery

CACFP operators may deliver meals directly to the homes of children or adults participating in the 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 operators must 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 operators 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 operators 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. The CACFP operator must have a Memorandum of Understanding with the vendor concerning confidentiality requirements, e.g., what can be disclosed, how the information may be used, how the information will be protected, and penalties for unauthorized disclosure.

When delivering meals, CACFP operators may use a distribution approach that includes meals for multiple days (up to seven days). In such instances, the operators 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 operator has obtained the household’s written consent. If the meals are shelf stable, no one needs to be present, as long as the address has been verified. CACFP operators 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 to provide them during one distribution. Program operators are still required to establish meal service distribution times for each site approved in the CNIPS.

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 COVID-19 meal pattern waiver under the CACFP extends through June 30, 2021. The COVID-19 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 COVID-19 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 COVID-19 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 COVID-19 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, guardian, or authorized individuals 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.

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. Examples include using a point-of-service system, requesting a parent, guardian, or authorized individuals to identify the age, grade or classroom teacher, asking for a student identification number, and posting 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, guardians, or authorized individuals 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 October 9, 2020, the USDA released COVID-19: Child Nutrition Response #68 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 June 30, 2021.

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 in an area where at least 40 percent of the participants are eligible for F/RP, then you do not need to opt in to the waiver. For sites that are below the 40 percent threshold, participants must fill out the online waiver

To participate in this waiver, a CACFP sponsor must complete the online Area Eligibility Waiver Application. If you are operating at a site that has not already been approved, then you will need to apply for a new site waiver and update your CNIPS application.

Please note the CACFP area eligibility waiver only applies to the CACFP At-risk Afterschool Meal Component.

Monitoring Requirements

Except for the allowance that all monitoring reviews happen offsite, all monitoring waiver flexibilities under the CACFP expired on September 30, 2020. Onsite monitoring is a critical part of a CACFP sponsor’s ability to ensure that the sites that they administer comply with the regulations and policies involving the service and safety of meals. All CACFP sponsors must now revert to the normal requirements of reviewing each site three times a year, with two of those visits being unannounced, and no more than six months elapsing between reviews. The COVID-19: Child Nutrition Response #39 Nationwide Waiver of Onsite Monitoring Requirements for Sponsors in the Child and Adult Care Food Program allows all reviews to be handled remotely (i.e., offsite).

All new sites must still meet the federal requirements of 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 emergency shelters (ES)
  • 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.

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

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 as widely as possible and in multiple languages the availability of meals. 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.

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

Eligibility for COVID-19 Disaster Claims

Eligible program operators include school districts, county offices of education (COE), charter schools, residential child care institutions, and private schools. A program operator participating in the National School Lunch, School Breakfast, Seamless Summer Option, or Summer Food Service Programs with some or all sites that temporarily closed or experienced a reduction in meal service due to the COVID-19 pandemic emergency from March 2020 through August 2020, inclusive, 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. Examples of fixed expenses include salaries and benefits that were incurred during COVID-19 closures.

Compliance

Eligible program operators that apply for COVID-19 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.) and the 2020 Budget Act, Section 118 External link opens in new window or tab.

Application Information

The CDE developed an online application process to assist eligible program operators with applying for COVID-19 disaster relief. The application was a two-part process that included the online portion for submitting general COVID-19 disaster information, as well as an Excel document for submitting detailed closure information. The final filing date for both applications was October 30, 2020.

If the information you provided to the CDE through the application process (either the online portion or the Excel document) changes or needs to be corrected, you must contact your Fiscal Analyst as soon as possible 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. established a priority order for COVID-19 disaster claim payments.

  • First priority for receiving Proposition (Prop) 98 disaster relief will be given to those program operators that made an effort to serve eligible meals to eligible pupils and had some or all sites that closed and served zero meals.

  • Should Prop 98 funds remain available after first priority claims have been paid, program operators that served a reduced number of eligible meals to eligible pupils will receive disaster relief.

For program operators that had some sites closed and other sites 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 then 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 Funding and 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. Approved payments will be made by check directly to program operators. The CDE estimates paying out these disaster claims sometime in Spring 2021.

Existing federal CNP funds do not allow for the reimbursement of disaster claims or meals not served. However, in accordance with the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, $112,231,000 was allocated from the Federal Trust Fund to increase rates for meals served during the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, $80 million in Prop 98 funds was allocated for this same purpose. An additional $0.75 is being applied to eligible breakfasts and lunches served between March 13, 2020 (when COVID-19 closures began statewide), through August 2020. The CDE began issuing payments for this increased rate in Fall 2020. Sponsors can expect to receive payment checks in Winter.

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 series of Tuesday Town Hall meetings to help program operators hear the latest news from the CDE and to hear from colleges their strategies, perspectives, and best practices. Below are the recorded webinars from previous meetings. To participate in the live Town Hall meetings, the announcements and details are posted on the CDE NSD Nutrition What’s New Disaster Tab web page. Please note: After a live Town Hall meeting, it takes approximately two weeks for the recording to become available.

Title Applicable to
January 26, 2021, Tuesday @ 2 School Nutrition Town Hall Webinar School Nutrition Program (SNP) Operators, Chief Business Officers (CBO), Food Service Directors (FSD), and Superintendents
December 8, 2020, Tuesday @ 2 School Nutrition Town Hall Webinar SNP Operators, CBOs, FSDs, and Superintendents
November 10, 2020, Tuesday @ 2: School Nutrition Town Hall Webinar SNP Operators, CBOs, FSDs, and Superintendents
October 20, 2020, Tuesday @ 2: School Nutrition Town Hall Webinar SNP Operators, CBOs, FSDs, and Superintendents
October 6, 2020, Tuesday @ 2: School Nutrition Town Hall Webinar SNP Operators, CBOs, FSDs, and Superintendents

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

SNP Operators, CBOs, FSDs, 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: SSO and SFSP Integrity Plan (DOCX) The SSO and SFSP Integrity Plan Guide will assist program operators in the development of standard operating procedures and help identify some of the required documents program operators must collect and maintain to meet SSO and SFSP requirements. This guide also provides prompting questions that program operators should consider and answer when developing an integrity plan.

CDE: SFSP Meal Pattern Guidance and Sample Menus

Includes guidance and sample menus to provide CNP Operators 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 during COVID-19 school closures or site dismissals.

Access to Food

Title Description

USDA: School Meals Programs: Providing Multiple Meals at a Time During the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic External link opens in new window or tab.

This publication provides bulk foods consideration, tips, best practices, and sample menus for school meals program operators who wish to distribute multiple meals at one time.
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.

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

This is CDFA’s list of certified 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

CNPs are important to maximizing food resources, supporting disaster relief, and promoting food assistance programs. This web page provides CNP Operators resources to assist communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Best Practices

Title Description

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

This web page provides a listing of best practices, considerations, and resources 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.
CDE: 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 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 what 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 which 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
Listos California Toolkit External link opens in new window or tab. An effort of the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES), Listos California has developed a disaster preparedness guide in a variety of languages, including Chinese, Hmong, Russian, Spanish, Punjabi and Vietnamese. Toolkit elements include COVID-19 guidance for immigrants, safety tips for wildfires, training curriculum, scripts and videos and tips for caregivers and individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

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.

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 FAQs can 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 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 claims and reimbursement, please contact your assigned fiscal analyst which you can find on the CDE Nutrition Services web page, under the Analyst Directory Tab.

If you have any questions regarding the disaster reimbursement claims, contact the Nutrition Services Division (NSD) at NSDDisasterClaims@cde.ca.gov.

COVID-19 CNP Meal Pattern Waiver Assistance

If you have any questions regarding meeting the COVID-19 CNP meal pattern waiver , 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: Thursday, March 4, 2021
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