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Summer Meal Programs Final Rule Update

On September 19, 2022, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that the Final Rule entitled Streamlining Program Requirements and Improving Integrity in the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) was published in the Federal Register. The Final Rule codified changes to SFSP regulations that will streamline requirements among child nutrition programs, simplify the application process, enhance monitoring requirements, offer more clarity on existing requirements, and provide more discretion at the state agency level to manage program operations. This rule also codified the USDA’s statutory waiver authority for all child nutrition programs.

In addition, the USDA provided additional guidance on sponsor financial and administrative capability (see the heading Sponsor Viability, Capability, and Accountability for more information). More guidance from the USDA is expected. The California Department of Education (CDE) will notify sponsors of guidance as it is received.

This communication outlines areas of the Final Rule that directly impact sponsor operations, sponsor or site eligibility, sponsor meal claims, and important definitions.

Sponsor Operations

First Week Site Visits

  • Requires sponsors to visit in the first two weeks of operation for new sites, sites with operational problems in the prior year, and any site where the state agency determines a visit is needed. For sites that operate for a week or less, the site visit must be conducted during the period of operation, as proposed. Title 7, Code of Federal Regulations (7 CFR) 225.15(d)(2)
  • Allows sponsors to conduct full food service reviews at the same time as the site visit. 7 CFR 225.15(d)(3)

Meal Service Times

  • Removes existing meal service time restrictions. 7 CFR 225.16(c)
  • Clarifies that meals claimed as breakfast must be served at or close to the beginning of the day and cannot be served after a lunch or supper. 7 CFR 225.16(c)(2)
  • Requires that for all sites (except residential camps) a minimum of one hour must elapse between the end of one meal service and the beginning of another. 7 CFR 225.16(c)(3)
  • Allows state agency to approve reimbursement for meals served outside of the approved meal service time if an unanticipated event, outside of the sponsor's control, occurs. 7 CFR 225.16(c)(4)(ii)

Meals Served Away from Approved Locations (Field Trips)

  • Provides flexibility to allow sponsors the option to receive reimbursement for meals served away from the approved site when the following conditions are met:
    • The sponsor notifies the state agency in advance that meals will be served away from the approved site;
    • The state agency has determined that all program requirements in 7 CFR 225.16(g) will be met, including applicable state and local health, safety, and sanitation standards;
    • The meals are served at the approved meal service time, unless a change is approved by the state agency; and
    • Sponsors of open sites continue operating at the approved location.
    • The state agency may determine that meals served away from the approved site location are not reimbursable if the sponsor did not provide notification in advance of the meal service. 7 CFR 225.6(i)(7)(v)

Off-site Consumption of Food Items

  • Allows sponsors to let a child to take one fruit, vegetable, or grain item off-site for later consumption provided that all applicable state and local health, safety, and sanitation standards will be met, and the site has adequate staffing to properly administer and monitor the site. 7 CFR 225.6(i)(15) and 7 CFR 225.16(h)

Offer Versus Serve

  • Specifies that only school food authority (SFA) sponsors may utilize the offer versus serve option, and may use the SFSP offer versus serve guidelines when electing to use the SFSP meal pattern. 7 CFR 225.16(f)(1)(ii)

Requirement for Media Release

  • Specifies that state agencies may issue a media release on behalf of all sponsors operating sites in the state, and clarifies that sponsors of camps and closed enrolled sites must only notify participants or enrolled children of the availability of free meals. 7 CFR 225.15(e)

Note: At this time, the CDE does not plan to issue media releases on behalf of all sponsors. Sponsors are in the best position to reach their communities. However, the CDE maintains the Summer Meal Service Sites web page and the CA Meals for Kids Mobile Application for communities to access meal information.

Roles and Responsibilities of Site Supervisors

  • Defines a site supervisor as the individual on site for the duration of the meal service, who has been trained by the sponsor, and is responsible for all administrative and management activities at the site. 7 CFR 225.2
  • Adds a reference to “site supervisor” at 7 CFR 225.14(c)(4), which provides some of the general requirements for a sponsor to participate in the program.

Unanticipated School Closure

  • Defines unanticipated school closure as any period from October through April (or any time of the year in an area with a continuous school calendar) during which children who are not in school due to a natural disaster, building repair, court order, labor-management disputes, or, when approved by the state agency, similar cause, may be served meals at non-school sites through the Summer Food Service Program. 7 CFR 225.2

Sponsor and Site Eligibility

Annual Verification of Tax-Exempt Status

  • Requires annual confirmation of tax-exempt status of private nonprofit sponsoring organizations at the time of application. 7 CFR 225.14(b)(5)

Application Procedures for New Sponsors

  • Provides flexibility for school food authorities and Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) institutions in good standing applying to the SFSP as new sponsors to use the application procedures for experienced sponsors at the discretion of the state agency. 7 CFR 225.6(c)(4)

Closed Enrolled Sites

  • Requires state agencies to establish criteria for approving closed enrolled sites to ensure operation of a site as closed enrolled does not limit program access in the area that the site is located. 7 CFR 225.6(a)(2)
  • Amends the definition of areas in which poor economic conditions exist and closed enrolled site to clarify eligibility requirements and include eligibility determination based on area data of children eligible for free or reduced-price meals, including school or census data. 7 CFR 225.2

Note: The CDE has developed criteria in which a closed-enrolled site may operate using area eligibility data to ensure the operation of a site does not limit program access:

  1. A site may operate as closed-enrolled if there is a documented safety concern at the meal site.
  2. A site may operate as closed-enrolled if there is another nearby open site. In this case, the site operates as closed-enrolled to protect program integrity and prevent duplication of meal services.

Demonstration of Financial and Administrative Capability

  • Includes the flexibility that SFAs and CACFP institutions in good standing applying to operate the SFSP do not have to provide further evidence of financial and administrative capabilities, but allows for state agency discretion to require a management plan or additional evidence of financial and administrative capability. 7 CFR 225.14(c)(1)

Duration of Eligibility

  • Amends the regulations for open, restricted open, and closed-enrolled sites. When school data are used, new documentation is required every five years. When census data are used, new documentation is required every five years, or earlier, if the state agency believes that an area's socioeconomic status has changed significantly since the last census. 7 CFR 225.6(g)(1)(viii), 225.6(g)(2)(ii), 225.6(g)(1)(ix), and 225.6(g)(2)(iii)

Sponsor Viability, Capability, and Accountability

  • Clarifies standards for states to assess an applicant sponsor’s viability, capability, and accountability and clarifies the contents of the required management plan. 7 CFR 225.6(c)(2)(i), 225.6(c)(3)(i) ,225.6(e), 225.6(d)
  • Amends application requirements, performance standards, and the management plan. 7 CFR 225.6. 225.14 (a), 225.14(c)(1), and 225.14(c)(4)
    • Requires that new sponsors and those with significant operational problems must submit a complete management plan. 7 CFR 225.6(e)(2) and 225.6(d)
    • Requires that experienced sponsors submit a full or simplified management plan, at the discretion of the state agency. A full management plan must be submitted at least once every three years. 7 CFR 225.6(e)(3)
    • Provides flexibility for school and CACFP sponsors in good standing may be exempt from submitting a management plan at the discretion of the state agency. 7 CFR 225.6(e)(4)

Note: On March 7, 2023, the USDA issued Policy Memo SFSP 03-2023, Guidance on Performance Standards, Budgets, and Management Plans in the Summer Food Service Program External link opens in new window or tab.. This memo provides guidance for financial viability and management, administrative capability, internal controls, administrative budgets, management plans, and state agencies application approval.

Sponsor Meal Claims

Establishing the Initial Maximum Approved Level of Meals for Sites of Vended Sponsors (Site Caps)

  • Clarifies that sponsors of vended sites may request an adjustment to the maximum approved level of meal service at any time prior to submitting a claim for reimbursement. States agencies have discretion on whether or not to approve site cap adjustments. 7 CFR 225.6(h)(2)(iii)

Note: If a site cap is adjusted retroactively, the CDE will conduct a claim validation, which would require the CDE to hold a reimbursement claim until the validation is complete.

Timeline for Reimbursements to Sponsors

  • Requires that the state agency must still disapprove claim within 30 calendar days, provide an explanation for disapproval, and how the claim must be revised for payment if a claim is determined to be potentially unlawful. 7 CFR 225.9(d)(4) and 225.9(d)(10)
  • Specifies that the state agency must notify the sponsor of its right to appeal a denied claim. 7 CFR 225.13(a)
  • Exempts state agency from the 45 calendar day timeframe for final action if more time is needed to complete a thorough examination of the sponsor’s claim. 7 CFR 225.9(d)(4) and 225.9(d)(10)

Important Definitions

Nonprofit Food Service, Nonprofit Food Service Account, Net Cash Resources

  • Defines nonprofit food service as all food service operations conducted by the sponsor principally for the benefit of children, all of the revenue from which is used solely for the operation or improvement of such food services. 7 CFR 225.2
  • Defines nonprofit food service account as the restricted account in which all of the revenue from all food service operations conducted by the sponsor principally for the benefit of children is retained and used only for the operation or improvement of the nonprofit food service. This account must include, as appropriate, non-federal funds used to support program operations, and proceeds from non-program foods. 7 CFR 225.2
  • Defines net cash resources as all monies, as determined in accordance with the state agency's established accounting system that are available to or have accrued to a sponsor's nonprofit food service at any given time, less cash payable. Such monies may include, but are not limited to, cash on hand, cash receivable, earnings on investments, cash on deposit and the value of stocks, bonds, or other negotiable securities. 7 CFR 225.2

Self-Preparation versus Vended Sites

  • Vended site means a site that serves unitized meals, with or without milk, that were procured through a formal agreement or contract with: (a) public agencies or entities such as a school food authority; (b) private, nonprofit organizations; or (c) private, for-profit companies such as a commercial food distributor or food service management company. 7 CFR 225.2
  • Self-preparation site means a site that prepares the majority of meals that will be served at its site or receives meals that are prepared at its sponsors’ central kitchen. The site does not contract with a food service management company for unitized meals, with or without milk, or for management services. 7 CFR 225.2
  • Requires sponsors to provide a summary of how meals will be obtained at each site, rather than at the sponsor level, as part of the sponsor application. 7 CFR 225.6(c)(2)(viii) and 225.6(c)(3)(vi)

Unaffiliated Sites

  • Defines unaffiliated site as a site that is legally distinct from the sponsor. 7 CFR 225.2


The complete Final Rule and a correction is available at the National Archives and Records Administration website, respectively Federal Register: Streamlining Program Requirements and Improving Integrity in the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) External link opens in new window or tab. and Federal Register: Streamlining Program Requirements and Improving Integrity in the Summer Food Service Program; Correction External link opens in new window or tab..

The CDE will issue management bulletins on these topics as deemed necessary.

Contact Information

If you have questions regarding the Final Rule or CDE requirements, please reach out to the Summer Nutrition Programs and Grants Unit by email at

Questions:   Nutrition Services Division | 800-952-5609
Last Reviewed: Friday, May 05, 2023
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