Skip to main content
California Department of Education Logo

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).

Overview

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.

Claiming and Reimbursement

The information outlined below pertains to all typical state or federally declared disasters, such as wildfires, floods, earthquakes, and power outages. 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.

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 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.

References

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-01-2023 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
State

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)
Federal
USDA FNS Policy Memo SP 04-2020 supersedes USDA FNS Policy Memo SP 55-2016: encourages National School Lunch Program (NSLP), 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-01-2023
State

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

USDA FNS Disaster Response Policy Memo SP 46-2014 External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF)
Federal
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 or SFSP sponsor must certify these children for free meals.
CDE Use of USDA Foods in Disaster Feeding Management Bulletin FDP-01-2023
Federal
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.

Federal

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 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.

 

Noncongregate Waivers for Unanticipated School Closures

In order to support continued access to nutritious meals, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) approved a statewide waiver that allows the California Department of Education (CDE), on a case-by-case basis, to approve noncongregate meal service in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), School Breakfast Program (SBP), Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and the Seamless Summer Option (SSO) when congregate meal service operations are limited due to natural disasters, unscheduled major building repairs, court orders relating to school safety or another issues, labor-management dispute, or other similar causes.

Please note that the CDE may not approve a waiver for a school food authority for more than ten consecutive operating days without approval from the USDA. If your agency requires noncongregate meals for more than ten consecutive days due to an unanticipated school closure, please reach out to your assigned county analyst for technical assistance.

Agencies must apply to use these flexibilities during unanticipated school closures by completing the CDE’s online application. Agencies must complete the CDE’s online application for each instance of an unanticipated school closure.

The specific requirements that the CDE is able to approve for flexibility during unanticipated school closures are outlined below.

National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs Waivers

The waivers in this section apply to the NSLP/SBP during unanticipated school building closures when virtual classes are offered. Schools not operating a provision, such as the Community Eligibility Provision or Provision 2, must continue to count and claim meals by type (i.e., free, reduced-price, or paid) when operating the NSLP or SBP. Schools participating in a provision must continue to claim meals according to the requirements of that provision when operating NSLP or SBP.

Note: These waivers are effective through June 30, 2024.

Non-Congregate Meal Service (NSLP and SBP)

Under the National School Lunch Act (NSLA), 42 U.S.C. 1753(b)(1)(A), and the Child Nutrition Act, 42 U.S.C. 1773(b)(1)(A), NSLP and SBP meals must be served in a congregate setting and must be consumed by participants on site.

The USDA has authorized the CDE to approve waivers on a case-by-case basis for the aforementioned requirements to serve meals through the NSLP and SBP in a congregate setting. Any other requirements referenced in these provisions remain in effect.

Meal Service Times (NSLP and SBP)

Under program regulations at Title 7, Code of Federal Regulations (7 CFR) 210.10(l) and 7 CFR 220.8(l), meals served in the NSLP and SBP must follow meal service time requirements.

The USDA has authorized the CDE to approve waivers on a case-by-case basis for the aforementioned requirements that set meal time parameters for school lunch and breakfast.

Parent and Guardian Meal Pick Up (NSLP and SBP)

Under program regulations at 7 CFR 210.10 (a), 7 CFR 220.2, and 7 CFR 220.8(a), meals must be served to eligible children.

The USDA has allowed the CDE to approve on a case-by-case basis flexibilities to the requirements that meals may only be served directly to children. Any other requirements referenced in these provisions remain in effect. The CDE is required to ensure that local operators are able to maintain accountability and program integrity and have appropriate plans in place. This includes processes that ensure meals are distributed only to parents or guardians of eligible children, and that duplicate meals are not distributed to any child, parent or guardian.

Offer Versus Serve (NSLP)

Under the NSLA, 42 U.S.C. 1758(a)(3), and program regulations at 7 CFR 210.10(e), program operators of senior high schools must participate in offer versus serve at lunch.

The USDA has allowed the CDE to approve on a case-by-case basis flexibilities to the requirements to serve school lunches to senior high school students using offer versus serve. USDA also extends the offer versus serve flexibility to the SSO for the duration of this waiver when there is an unanticipated school closure during the school year.

Bulk Meals (NSLP/SBP)

The USDA authorized the CDE to approve waivers, on a case-by-case basis, for SFAs to provide up to 10 operating days’ worth of meals to students. However, SFAs cannot provide individual food items in bulk (e.g., providing a gallon of milk instead of individual cartons, or providing large size canned fruit instead of portioned out fruit). SFAs may only provide the meal types for which they have been approved.

Summer Food Service Program and Seamless Summer Option Waivers

The flexibilities in this section apply to the SFSP and the SSO during unanticipated school closures. This applies when school buildings are closed and virtual classes are not offered.

Note: These waivers are effective through April 30, 2024, and require pre-approval from the CDE.

Non-Congregate Meal Service during Unanticipated School Closures (SFSP/SSO)

Under NSLA, 42 U.S.C. 1753(b)(1)(A), 42 U.S.C. 1761(a)(1)(D), and program regulations at 7 CFR 225.6(i)(15), SFSP meals must be served in a congregate setting and must be consumed by participants on site.

During an unanticipated school closure, USDA has authorized the CDE to approve on a case-by-case basis waivers for the aforementioned requirements to serve meals through the SFSP in a congregate setting. Any other requirements referenced in these provisions remain in effect. USDA also extends the non-congregate feeding flexibility to the SSO for the duration of this waiver.

Meal Service Times for Unanticipated School Closures (SFSP/SSO)

Under program regulations at 7 CFR 225.16(c)(1), (2), and (3), meals served in the SFSP must follow meal service time requirements.

The USDA has authorized the CDE to approve on a case-by-case basis waivers for the aforementioned requirements that set meal time parameters for SFSP sites. Any other requirements referenced in these provisions remain in effect. USDA also extends the meal service times flexibility to the SSO for the duration of this waiver.

Parent and Guardian Meal Pick-Up during Unanticipated School Closures (SFSP/SSO)

Under the NSLA, 42 U.S.C. 1761(f)(3), and program regulations at 7 CFR 210.10(a), 7 CFR 220.2, 7 CFR 220.8(a), 7 CFR 225.2 (Meals), and 7 CFR 225.9(d)(7), meals must be served to eligible children.

The USDA has authorized the CDE to approve on a case-by-case basis waivers for the aforementioned requirements that meals may only be served directly to children. Any other requirements referenced in these provisions remain in effect. The USDA also extends the parent and guardian pick up flexibility to the SSO for the duration of this waiver. The CDE is required to ensure that local operators are able to maintain accountability and program integrity and have appropriate plans in place. This includes processes that ensure meals are distributed only to parents or guardians of eligible children, and that duplicate meals are not distributed to any child, parent or guardian.

Service of Meals at School Sites during Unanticipated School Closures (SFSP/SSO)

Under the NSLA, 42 U.S.C. 1761(c)(1) and program regulations at 7 CFR 225.6(h)(1)(iv), the CDE may approve meal service operations only at non-school sites during unanticipated school closures.

During an unanticipated school closure, USDA has allowed the CDE to approve on a case-by-case basis the requirements that limit the operation of SFSP to non-school sites. USDA also extends the service of meals at school sites during unanticipated school closures flexibility to the SSO for the duration of this waiver.

Bulk Meals (SFSP/SSO)

The USDA has authorized the CDE to approve on a limited case-by-case basis waivers to allow SFAs to provide up to 10 operating days’ worth of meals to children. However, SFAs cannot provide individual food items in bulk (e.g., providing a gallon of milk instead of individual cartons).

Unanticipated School Closure Program Operation

The table below outlines which program SFAs may operate during a specific unanticipated school closure.

Type of Closure Program
School closed; virtual school offered NSLP/SBP
School/site closed; NO virtual school offered SFSP/SSO (must be site eligible)

If you have any questions or need assistance regarding applying for the NSLP or SBP, please contact your SNP Specialist. A current list of SNP Specialists is available on the SNP Specialist Directory web page. You may also contact an SNP Office Technician at SNPInfo@cde.ca.gov.

For Children Nutrition Information and Payment System (CNIPS) technical questions, please contact the CNIPS Help Desk by email at cnips@cde.ca.gov.

Resources

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.

Contacts

School Nutrition Program (SNP) Analyst

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

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, December 20, 2023
Related Content
  • CNIPS Project Information
    The Child Nutrition Information and Payment System is a Web-based system for local sponsors of federal food programs. Agencies can also register for trainings through the CNIPS.
  • Coronavirus Response and School Reopening Guidance
    Information and resources regarding CDE's COVID-19 response efforts, including the guidance document for safely reopening schools.
  • COVID-19 Guidance in the Child Nutrition Programs
    Provides background information, policy waivers, guidance, claiming and reimbursements requirements, resources, FAQs, and state agency contacts for program sponsors operating the Child Nutrition Programs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Disaster Resources
    Assistance for Victims of a Disaster within California.
  • Nutrition What's New
    News and announcements relating to nutrition for program operators and contacts.
Recently Posted in Nutrition
  • 2024–25 CNP Reimbursement Rates (added 27-Feb-2024)
    The U.S. Department of Agriculture issued the Summer Food Service Program 2024 reimbursement rates for breakfast, lunch, supper, and snacks. You can review these rates on the 2024 Child Nutrition Programs (CNP) Reimbursement Rates.
  • New SFSP Management Bulletins (added 27-Feb-2024)
    The CDE has published five new Management Bulletins that impact the Summer Food Service Program.
  • SFSP Policy Updates Listening Session (added 27-Feb-2024)
    The CDE will host a Listening Session that will review changes to the federal SFSP regulations and how these policies will impact SFSP operations.
  • Updated USDA Guidance on the CEP (added 27-Feb-2024)
    This page contains updated USDA guidance on the CEP, including new policy memos.
  • Governor Newsom Secures Presidential Aid (added 27-Feb-2024)
    Governor Newsom Secures Presidential Major Disaster Declaration to Support Storm Recovery Efforts in San Diego