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Disaster Guidance for Child Nutrition Programs

Includes claiming and reimbursement information, policy guidance, resources, and contacts for all disasters that affect the Child Nutrition Programs (CNP).


Disasters are sudden events, such as an emergency or a natural catastrophe, that cause great damage or loss. Examples of disasters that affect the CNP include pandemics, fires, floods, earthquakes, and power outages, which can lead to decreased access to food and often school closures. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the California Department of Education (CDE) Nutrition Services Division (NSD) provide support, technical assistance, policy guidance, and resources to program operators during state and federally declared disasters to ensure that children continue to have access to nutritious meals. This web page provides general information that pertains to all disasters in the CNPs.

For all content related to COVID-19 in the CNPs, visit the COVID-19 Guidance in the CNPs web page.

Claiming and Reimbursement

The information outlined below pertains to all typical state or federally declared disasters, such as wildfires, floods, earthquakes, and power outages. It does not include the COVID-19 pandemic emergency. Regular monthly claims for reimbursement for meals served must still be submitted electronically in the Child Nutrition Information and Payment System (CNIPS) web page External link opens in new window or tab..

Eligibility for Proposition 98 Disaster Claims

Any school district or county office of education (COE) participating in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs may submit a claim for reimbursement to help offset fixed expenses, such as salaries and benefits that continue to incur during temporary school closures caused by state or federally declared disasters.


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 Process

Applications for disaster relief payment(s) should be submitted immediately following the disaster. A separate claim should be filed for each emergency event. Applications are reviewed after the end of the state’s fiscal year (June 30). The final filing date for any fiscal year to apply for reimbursement due to a state or federally declared disaster is August 20. To submit a disaster claim for reimbursement, complete the Application for Meal Reimbursement During Disaster (Non-COVID-19 claims)(DOC).

Reimbursement Calculation

Disaster reimbursement calculations are based on criteria found in EC Section 49505(c) External link opens in new window or tab.. 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 due to the disaster.

Reimbursement Payment

Approved disaster relief payments will be made from and are contingent on available Proposition (Prop) 98 funding. Currently, disaster reimbursements are not an allowable use of federal funds. Approved disaster relief payments will be made by check directly to program operators.

Prop 98 COVID-19 Disaster Claims

The COVID-19 pandemic emergency is unique. Although, Prop 98 COVID-19 disaster claims are paid using State funds, there are significant differences in the way COVID-19 claims are processed, as compared to typical non-COVID-19 claims. Visit the Claiming tab on the COVID-19 Guidance in the CNPs web page for more information regarding the regulations and processes specific to Prop 98 COVID-19 disaster claims.


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

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

Policy Guidance

The state and federal policy information provided below assists program operators during all disasters that affect CNPs.

Policy Reference State or Federal Policy Description
CDE State Meal Mandate Update Web page

EC Section 49550 requires school districts and county offices of education (COE) to provide nutritionally adequate meals to pupils who are eligible for free and reduced-price (F/RP) meals every school day. EC Section 47613.5 extends this requirement to charter schools. Charter schools offering nonclassroom-based instruction must also offer at least one nutritionally adequate meal for eligible pupils on any school day that the pupil is scheduled for educational activities lasting two or more hours at a school site, resource center, meeting space, or other satellite facility operated by the charter school.

EC Section 49550(c) defines school day as any day that pupils in kindergarten or grades 1 to 12, inclusive, are attending school for purposes of classroom instruction, including, but not limited to, pupil attendance at minimum days, state-funded preschool, transitional kindergarten, summer school including incoming kindergarten pupils, extended school year days, and Saturday school sessions.

A nutritionally adequate meal (breakfast and lunch) must meet the federal meal pattern requirements and is defined in EC Section 49531 as the following:

A nutritionally adequate breakfast is one that qualifies for reimbursement under the most current meal pattern requirement for the federal School Breakfast Program, as defined in 7CFR, Section 220.8. A nutritionally adequate lunch is one that qualifies for reimbursement under the most current meal pattern for the federal National School Lunch Program, as defined in 7CFR, Section 210.10.


USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) Meal Service During Unanticipated School Closures Policy Memo SP 04-2020 External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF)
USDA FNS Policy Memo SP 04-2020 supersedes USDA FNS Policy Memo SP 55-2016: encourages National School Lunch Program (NSLP), Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), and Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) sponsors to use certain flexibilities to help ensure that students do not experience a lapse in food security when natural disasters or other events force area schools to close.
CDE Disaster Response–Child Nutrition Programs Management Bulletin CNP-02-2015 web page

EC Section 49505: Allows schools participating in the NSLP to serve meals at no charge to a student who has been rendered homeless because of a state or federally declared disaster. Schools or districts may temporarily claim and be reimbursed for these meals in the free category on their monthly claim for reimbursement, regardless of the student’s eligibility for meal benefits.

EC Section 49505: Exempts school districts and COEs participating in the NSLP from serving all required meal components of a reimbursable meal during a state or federally declared disaster. All CNP Operators are required to keep documentation for the exemption.

USDA FNS Disaster Response Policy Memo SP 46-2014 External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF)
USDA FNS Policy Memo SP 46-2014 states: Students residing in or evacuated from disaster areas may be determined homeless under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act and that a school district’s homeless coordinator makes a determination of homelessness and provides a list of all children determined homeless or displaced due to a disaster situation. The NSLP, CACFP, or SFSP sponsor must certify these children for free meals.
CDE Use of USDA Foods in Disaster Feeding Management Bulletin 02-401
Title 7, Code of Federal Regulations (7 CFR), Part 250; Food Distribution Program Administrative Manual, Chapter 6, states: Program operators are allowed flexibility regarding the use of USDA Foods during a state or federally declared disaster with prior approval from the CDE. Disaster relief organizations may designate schools as community feeding sites or request schools to provide their foods to other feeding sites. USDA Foods are to be released upon request to recognized disaster relief organizations such as the American Red Cross or the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services.

Title 7, Code of Federal Regulations (7 CFR),Section 210.10(m)(4) External link opens in new window or tab.,

7 CFR, Section 220.8(m) External link opens in new window or tab.,

7 CFR, Section 225.16(f)(5) External link opens in new window or tab.,

7 CFR, Section 226.20(h) External link opens in new window or tab.


NSLP and School Breakfast Program Operators are permitted to serve meals that do not meet the menu planning or meal pattern requirements in disaster situations.

SFSP and CACFP Operators are allowed special variations in the food components of meals. You must contact your state agency for details on how this can be implemented in these specific programs.



Below are general resources that may apply to all disasters and emergencies that affect the CNP.

Title Description
Center for Disease Control (CDC) Emergency Preparedness and Response Website External link opens in new window or tab. The CDC provides information on how to protect your loved ones, information on specific types of emergencies, emergency resources, and more.
USDA Foods Disaster Assistance web page External link opens in new window or tab. The USDA provides information on where to apply for disaster relief assistance, USDA foods fact sheets, the USDA Disaster Manual, and more.
California Department of Public Health (CDPH) website External link opens in new window or tab. The CDPH provides state specific guidance on how to stay healthy and safe by sustaining its commitment to support healthy individuals and families in healthful communities. The CDPH recognizes the need to transform as public health advances and society evolves.
CDE Disaster Resources web page The CDE provides resources to assist victims of a disaster within California.
CDE Public Safety Power Shutoff A Public Safety Power Shutoff is a preventative system that utility companies use when they predict extreme weather conditions that could cause a fire.



School Nutrition Program (SNP) Analyst

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

Child and Adult Food Program (CACFP) Analyst

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

Summer Food Service Program (SFSP)

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

USDA Foods Team

For more information about USDA Foods, contact the Food Distribution Unit by email at

Claims and Reimbursement

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

Questions:   Nutrition Services Division | 800-952-5609
Last Reviewed: Wednesday, October 6, 2021
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