Skip to main content
California Department of Education Logo

SSO Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Frequently asked questions and answers regarding the Seamless Summer Option (SSO); provides additional program participation and operation information.


  1. What is the Seamless Summer Option?

    The Seamless Summer Option (SSO) is a program that encourages more Public School Districts and County Offices of Education (PSDs/COEs or sponsors) to provide meals in low income areas during summer and certain other school vacation periods. The SSO combines features of the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), School Breakfast Program (SBP), and Summer Food Service Program (SFSP). The SSO reduces paperwork and administrative burdens and makes it easier for sponsors to feed children in low income areas during traditional summer vacation periods and during school vacation periods of longer than ten days for year-round schools.

  2. What organizations may participate?
    Only sponsors administering the NSLP or SBP may participate in the SSO. With California Department of Education (CDE) approval, approved sponsors may operate non school sites, such as parks or recreation centers.

Application Approval

  1. What are the participation requirements?

    In order to be approved for the SSO, a sponsor must have the CDE’s approval to participate in either the NSLP or SBP and must demonstrate its administrative capability and financial viability to properly operate during school vacation periods. The CDE will not approve applications from a sponsor that has significant problems operating either the NSLP or SBP or has been seriously deficient in the administration of the SFSP or a prior SSO. Previous participation in the SFSP is not a requirement for SSO participation.

  2. What are the site application requirements?

    Sponsors must sign and mail the Permanent Single Agreement for Child Nutrition Programs (SNP-NSLP-01) to the Nutrition Services Division. The agreement is available in the download forms section of the Child Nutrition Information and Payment System (CNIPS). In addition, sponsors must access the Seamless Summer Site Application link from their CNIPS Application Packet and submit a site application for each participating site.

  3. Are sponsors required to take training?

    Training is not required.

Site Eligibility

  1. What method may sponsors use to establish that a site is eligible to participate in the SSO?

    The method that sponsors may use to establish most sites’ eligibility is referred to as “area eligibility.” Sites within the geographical boundaries of a school attendance area with at least 50 percent of its children approved for free or reduced-price meals are area eligible. Area eligibility may be based on the percentage of enrolled children approved for free or reduced price meals as of the last day of operation of the most recent school year or any month during the current school year. Area eligibility may also be determined using other data as described in Question 11.

  2. What types of sites are eligible to participate in the SSO?
    • Open - An open site serves all children through age 18 at an area eligible site. Meals served at open sites are reimbursed at the free rate.

    • Restricted Open - A restricted open site serves children through age 18 but must limit participation due to security, safety, or control concerns. The sponsor must publicize that the site is open on a first-come, first-served basis to all community children, but participation will be limited. On each site application, sponsors must explain why attendance is restricted. Meals served at restricted open sites are reimbursed at the free rate.

    • Closed-Enrolled - A closed-enrolled site serves only children who are enrolled in a specific program or activity. These sites usually provide recreational, cultural, religious, or other types of organized activities. To qualify as a closed-enrolled site, at least 50 percent of the enrolled children at the site must be approved for free or reduced-price meals. The sponsor may determine enrolled children’s eligibility using: (1) applications submitted to the site and approved by the sponsoring school, (2) Direct Certification conducted by the sponsoring school, or (3) information obtained from the enrolled child’s school. Academic summer schools that are closed to the community are ineligible to participate in the SSFO as a closed-enrolled site (see Question 15). On each site application, sponsors must explain why the site is closed (see Question 10). Meals served to all children in attendance at closed enrolled sites are reimbursed at the free rate.

    • Migrant - This site primarily serves children of migrant families as certified by the district’s migrant coordinator. Meals served to all children in attendance at migrant sites are reimbursed at the free rate.

    • Camps - A residential or non residential (day) camp offering a regularly scheduled food service as part of an organized program for enrolled children may qualify as a SSFO camp site. Sponsors of non residential camp sites must offer a continuous schedule of organized cultural or recreational programs for enrolled children between meal services. Camps are not approved based on area eligibility or enrolled children’s eligibility, e.g. 50 percent or more of the camp’s enrolled children approved for free or reduced price meals. Meals served to children who are not eligible for free or reduced-price meals at camps are not reimbursed and the sponsor may charge the children for the meals (see Questions 22 and 38). The sponsor may determine enrolled children’s eligibility using: (1) applications submitted to the site and approved by the sponsoring school, (2) Direct Certification conducted by the sponsoring school, or (3) information obtained from the enrolled child’s school. Meals served to enrolled children who qualify for free or reduced-priced meals at camps are reimbursed at the free rate.
  3. Can an approved SSO sponsor operate a site that is located outside of its district?

    With CDE approval, a sponsor may operate sites that are outside of its district.

  4. Can an approved SSO sponsor operate a site that is managed by another entity?

    With CDE approval, an approved SSO sponsor may operate a site that is managed by a local government, school, or private nonprofit organization. The CDE cannot approve a site that is managed by a for-profit entity.

  5. May a sponsor be approved to operate a closed enrolled site if that site is area eligible?

    No. The use of Area Eligibility to establish closed-enrolled site eligibility is not allowed. Sponsors must use the methods listed in Question 7 Closed-Enrolled to establish eligibility. Sponsors requesting to operate a closed-enrolled site must provide a justification explaining why the site is not operating as an open site.

  6. Can sites qualify for participation using data other than the school’s percentage of free and reduced-price eligibility?

    Yes. SFAs may document the area eligibility of their proposed open or restricted open sites on the basis of census data. SSO sites that choose to establish eligibility using census data are required to use the most recent data available. Fifty percent or more of the children in a Census Block Group (CBG) or census track must be eligible for free or reduced price school meals to establish eligibility. For guidance on the census data for area eligibility determinations in SSO, please view the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Memorandum SP 08-2017, CACFP 04-2017, SFSP 03- 2017, Area Eligibility in Child Nutrition Programs, December 1, 2016 web page External link opens in new window or tab..

    The USDA Area Eligibility Mapper External link opens in new window or tab. is a tool that can help State agencies and sponsors determine area eligibility in both SSO and SFSP using census data. The Area Eligibility Mapper utilizes the most recent census data available.

  7. Are sponsors required to establish site eligibility annually?

    The requirement to establish eligibility depends upon the site type and the initial method that the sponsor used to establish the site’s eligibility. Sites that were approved by the CDE based on area eligibility are authorized for five years. Sites that were approved by the CDE based on census data are certified until new census data becomes available. The CDE may require more frequent certification if it becomes aware of significant economic changes in the area. A sponsor is required to establish site eligibility annually for sites, such as closed enrolled sites and camps, that were approved based on individual children’s eligibility.

  8. How would a Provision 2 or 3 school without current eligibility data qualify?

    The CDE will accept data from a school’s Provision 2 or 3 base year to determine area eligibility. Sponsors must use the school’s eligibility percentages, not the claiming percentages of students receiving meals. The CDE may also accept alternative data sources (see Question 11).

  9. Can a sponsor operate only school sites?

    A sponsor should operate sites according to its financial and administrative capabilities. The CDE encourages all sponsors to expand their summer meal programs to children in the community by sponsoring non school sites that are operated by nonprofit organizations (see Question 9).

  10. Can a school that is operating a public or private academic summer school participate as a closed enrolled site?

    If the school site provides meals only to enrolled summer school students, it is not eligible to participate in the SSO. Meal services at academic summer school sites must be open to children in the community in order to qualify for the SSO. Academic summer school meals remain eligible for reimbursement at free, reduced-price, and paid rates under the NSLP/SBP.

  11. Can a sponsor serve meals to summer school children in the cafeteria and to community children elsewhere, such as in a nearby park or on the school playground?

    The sponsor must use the same facilities to feed both students and community children. Sponsors may serve meals at staggered times to different groups of children provided all the children have access to the same meal service (food served, length of serving time, eating area, etc.).

  12. What are the advertising requirements?

    Sponsors must make a reasonable effort to advertise that free meals will be available to all community children, including children who will not be attending summer school if the meals will be provided during summer school. The sponsor must describe how each site will advertise the availability of meal services to community children. The sponsor should provide enough detail so the advertising method can be documented and confirmed during a CDE or FNS review. For example, if meals are advertised the sponsor must maintain copies of the advertisements. The sponsor must also maintain documentation of public service announcements by radio or television stations and copies of flyers provided to students or mailed to households.

Months of Operation

  1. Can a year-round school with off-track breaks participate?

    The CDE may approve year-round schools, provided the school is on a year-round, continuous schedule and the off-track breaks are at least ten school days and are officially part of the school schedule.

  2. May a sponsor claim reimbursement for meals served during winter or spring breaks or at other times when a school is closed?

    Schools on a traditional school calendar may not serve SSO meals during winter or spring breaks. SSO operating months for traditional schools are May through September, when school is not in session. Schools may also participate any time during the year at a non school site that is responding to an unanticipated school closure (see Question 20).

  3. What is an unanticipated school closure?
    An unanticipated school closure is defined as a natural disaster, unscheduled major building repair, court order relating to school safety or other issues, labor-management dispute, or other similar cause as approved by the CDE. During unanticipated school closures, sponsors may only serve meals at non school sites.

Meal Service and Claiming

  1. What is the age requirement for participating children?

    All persons in the community who are 18 years of age and under and those persons over age 18 who meet the CDE’s definition of having a mental or physical disability may participate.

  2. Can a sponsor charge for meals served to participating children?

    Sponsors must provide free meals to all children at all approved SSO sites, except camps. A camp sponsor may charge for the meals served to children who are not eligible to receive free or reduced-price meals.

  3. Does the sponsor of a closed enrolled site claim only the meals served to children eligible for free or reduced-price meals?

    Once approved as a closed enrolled site, the sponsor should claim meals for all children enrolled at the site regardless of eligibility (see Question 7 - Closed enrolled).

  4. What types of meals are reimbursable?

    With the limitations described in Question 25, a site may serve breakfast, morning snack, lunch, afternoon snack, and/or supper. Menu planning must follow one of the Menu Planning Approaches in Title 7, Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Part 210.10 for the NSLP and 7 CFR, Part 220.8 for the SBP.

  5. How many meals will the CDE approve for reimbursement per day?

    The number of meals that are eligible for reimbursement depends on the type of site where the meals are served. For meals served at open, restricted open, or closed enrolled sites, sponsors are eligible for reimbursement of up to two meals per child, in any combination except lunch and supper (lunch and breakfast, lunch and a snack, or breakfast and a snack). Second breakfasts are reimbursable (see Question 33). For meals served at camps and migrant sites, sponsors are eligible for reimbursement of up to three meals per day, including lunch and supper on the same day. Sponsors will only be reimbursed for meals served to children eligible for free or reduced-price meals when served at camps (see Question 7 - Camps).

  6. What meal pattern and menu planning option should sponsors use for supper meals?

    Sponsors must use the NSLP meal pattern and menu planning options for suppers.

  7. Are there designated meal periods?

    Meal times for breakfast and lunch must follow the designated times in the SBP and NSLP regulations. According to 7 CFR, Part 220.2(b), sponsors must serve breakfast to children in the morning hours. Sponsors must offer lunch between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m., as provided in 7 CFR, Part 210.10(f). There should be at least three hours between the end of breakfast and the beginning of lunch. Sponsors must begin serving supper meals before 7:00 p.m., and the meal must end by 8:00 p.m. Snack service times must be evenly and adequately spaced between other meals in order to minimize food waste and ensure good nutrition practices.

  8. Are á la carte sales allowed?

    Although á la carte sales are discouraged during summer meal service, they are allowed provided the items sold do not violate the requirements restricting foods of minimal nutritional value. Sponsors should encourage children to participate in the provided meal service before they pay for á la carte items.

  9. May sponsors serve meals on weekends?

    The CDE may allow sponsors to provide meals on weekends, provided the sponsor includes this information in its application.

  10. Must a year-round school differentiate meal counts between on-track (NSLP) and off-track (SSO) students?

    Since all off-track students at SSO sites receive meals free of charge, the school must be able to distinguish between them and the on-track students who may be paying reduced or full prices for their meals.

  11. Is the sponsor required to get the CDE’s permission prior to serving meals on a field trip?

    There is no requirement that the sponsor obtain permission prior to serving meals on a field trip.

  12. Is offer versus serve allowed?

    The sponsor may allow offer versus serve, but it is not required.

  13. Are second meals reimbursable?

    Sponsors may offer second lunches and snacks, but may not claim these meals for reimbursement. However, sponsors may offer second breakfasts and claim those meals for reimbursement in accordance with 7 CFR, Part 220.9(a), which states in part that any excess breakfasts that are prepared may be served to eligible children and may be claimed for reimbursement unless the CDE determines that the sponsor has failed to plan and prepare breakfasts with the objective of providing one breakfast per child per day.

  14. May a sponsor serve family style meals?

    Sponsors of camps may serve family style meals. Other site types may not serve family style meals.

Local Level Monitoring

  1. When should the sponsor review its sites?

    Each year, sponsors are required to review each SSO site at least once during its first week of operation to ensure that the site is in compliance with meal counting, claiming, menu planning, and food safety requirements.

  2. Should the site maintain records of food purchases?

    As set forth in 7 CFR, Part 210.10(a)(3), schools must keep menus and menu production records for the meals they produce. These records must allow the CDE to evaluate how the meals contribute to the required food components or menu items.

  3. Does the sponsor have to conduct meal count edit checks?
    Edit checks are not required for SSO sites. However, the sponsor should ensure that meal counts match participation and reimbursement claims reflect the number of meals served. When operating summer school under the NSLP, the sponsor must conduct edit checks.

Reimbursement Rates

  1. What is the reimbursement rate?

    Meals served at most SSO sites are reimbursed at the free rates prescribed by the USDA for the NSLP (including snacks) and SBP. Supper meals are reimbursed at the NSLP’s free lunch rate. Meals served at camps to children who are eligible for free or reduced-price meals are reimbursed at the free rate. Meals served at camps to children who are not eligible for free or reduced-price meals are not reimbursable, and camps may charge these children for their meals.

  2. Will qualifying schools continue to receive the severe need breakfast rate?

    Schools that qualified for the severe need rate during the school year will continue to receive that rate.

  3. Will eligible schools continue to earn the commodity entitlement under NSLP?

    Schools will earn the full commodity allotment for both lunches and suppers.

  4. Will schools in qualifying districts receive the two cent differential for lunch and supper?

    Schools in qualifying districts will continue to receive the two cent differential. In addition, effective July 1, 2007, the CDE will include SSO lunches to determine the rate code calculation for the two cent differential.

  5. What reimbursement rates will non school sites receive?

    When different schools in the sponsor’s jurisdiction qualify for different rates, such as the severe need breakfast rate, the non school site will receive the same reimbursement rates as the nearest school. If the sponsor is operating a school that is outside its jurisdiction, the sponsor will receive the same reimbursement rates that the school site receives during the school year.


  1. How should SSO claims be submitted?

    Sponsors must submit SSO reimbursement claims via the CNIPS Seamless Summer Claim Entry section. With regard to SSO claims, Sponsors: (1) must submit a separate claim for each month when SSO meals are served, (2) may not claim SSO meals with other NSLP/SBP meals, and (3) must include annual cost and revenue totals for SSO sites in the revenue and cost totals reported on the SNP June claim. Claims assistance is available on the CDE fiscal Nutrition Services- School Nutrition Program Web page, or by contacting a Child Nutrition Fiscal Services analyst at 916-322-8313.

  2. Can a Food Service Management Company (FSMC) under contract with a sponsor for NSLP meal services handle the same administrative tasks for SSO meals?

    An FSMC may handle SSO administrative tasks if the contract covers summer meal services under the NSLP. FSMC personnel should follow the NSLP regulations in 7 CFR, Part 210.16, which describe permissible administrative tasks that the company can perform on behalf of the sponsor. Sponsors must follow all procurement requirements in 7 CFR parts 210.21 and 220.16 when contracting out SSO operations.

Questions:   Nutrition Services Division | 800-952-5609
Last Reviewed: Wednesday, December 9, 2020
Related Content
  • Procurement in Child Nutrition Programs
    Federal and state information for the procurement of food service-related goods and services across all federally funded Child Nutrition Programs and U.S. Department of Agriculture Foods.
  • Procurement in School Nutrition Programs
    Federal procurement regulations when contracting with food service management companies (FSMC), vendors, or competitively procuring food.
  • Seamless Summer Option (SSO)
    Information about the federal Seamless Summer Option opportunity that allows public schools to combine features of the School Nutrition Programs and the Summer Food Service Program along with reduced paperwork requirements.
Recently Posted in Nutrition
  • USDA Nationwide Waiver Questions and Answers #4 (added 15-Jan-2021)
    On January 5, 2021, USDA released Policy Memorandum SP 05-2021, CACFP 04-2021, SFSP 04-2021, Questions and Answers Relating to the Nationwide Waiver to Allow SFSP and SSO Operators during School Year 2020ꟷ21 Q&As #4.
  • 2020–21 CACFP Mandatory Training (updated 15-Jan-2021)
    Announcement for the 2020–21 Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) Mandatory Training.
  • 2021 SFSP Reimbursement Rates (added 12-Jan-2021)
    On December 31, 2020, the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) 2021 reimbursement rates for breakfast, lunch, supper, and snacks.
  • CNAC Member Recruitment 2021 (added 12-Jan-2021)
    The State Superintendent of Public Instruction (SSPI) Child Nutrition Advisory Council (CNAC) is recruiting for positions for 2021.
  • 2021–22 FFVP Request for Applications Announcement (added 12-Jan-2021)
    The California Department of Education (CDE) Nutrition Services Division (NSD) announces a grant opportunity for elementary schools to participate in the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP).

  • SSO and SFSP Integrity Plan (added 12-Jan-2021)
    The Nutrition Services Division (NSD) has developed a Seamless Summer Option (SSO) and Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) Integrity Plan guide to support program operators.
  • 2021–22 CNP Reimbursement Rates (added 06-Jan-2021)
    Child Nutrition Program (CNP) meal reimbursement rates.
  • 2021–22 SBP and SMP Start-up and Expansion Grants (added 06-Jan-2021)
    Availability of School Year 2020–21 School Breakfast Program (SBP) and Summer Meal Programs (SMP) Start-up and Expansion Grants.
  • Penn State Better Kid Care Educational Resources (added 30-Dec-2020)
    Penn State Better Kid Care trainings developed for child care program staff to provide guidance on how to protect themselves and children during the COVID-19 pandemic and changes to policy and practices for CACFP Operators.
  • Mealtimes with Toddlers in the CACFP (added 30-Dec-2020)
    Mealtimes With Toddlers in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) provides information on feeding toddlers meals and snacks in the CACFP. The videos are 2-3 minutes long and available in both English and Spanish.