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Summer Meal Excess Heat & Poor Air Quality Waiver

On May 13, 2024, the U.S. Department of Agriculture approved the use of two statewide waivers requested by the California Department of Education (CDE) for summer meal program operators in good standing to provide meals in a non-congregate setting due to excessive heat and/or poor air quality. These waivers are effective May 1, 2024, through September 30, 2024.

Excessive Heat Waiver

The Excessive Heat waiver is available for Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and Seamless Summer Option (SSO) operators in good standing that are operating approved outdoor feeding sites without temperature controlled alternative indoor sites on days when the area is experiencing excessive heat.

The excessive heat waiver may only be used on days when the National Weather Service (NWS) has issued a Heat Advisory, an Excessive Heat Warning, or an Excessive Heat Watch for the area in which an approved outdoor meal site is located.

Poor Air Quality Waiver

The Poor Air Quality waiver is available for SFSP and SSO operators in good standing that are operating approved outdoor feeding sites without alternative indoor sites as non-congregate sites on days when the area is experiencing certain air quality advisories.

The threshold for determining when the poor air quality waiver can be used is based on metrics developed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC), which are designed to help determine when to move activities indoors. Using these metrics, which equate to very unhealthy or hazardous air quality, sites may be approved for non-congregate meal service on days when the site’s zip code has an Air Quality Index (AQI) “purple” flag or higher, as indicated at Airnow web page External link opens in new window or tab..

The following Excessive Heat or Poor Air Quality Waivers are available to SFSP and SSO operators and require pre-approval by the CDE:

  • Non-congregate Meal Service (SFSP/SSO)

    • This waiver is not the same as the new option to provide a rural non-congregate meal service. This waiver is not limited to sites in rural areas and may only be applied to sites approved for congregate meal service.

  • Parent and Guardian Meal Pick Up (SFSP/SSO)

    • If a sponsor needs to use the parent and guardian meal pick up waiver, additional requirements apply. The operator must have written procedures to ensure that meals are distributed only to parents or guardians of eligible children and that duplicate meals are not distributed to any child.

  • Meal Service Times (SFSP/SSO)

    • If a sponsor needs to use the meal service times waiver, additional requirements apply. The meal service times waiver requirements are intended to ensure that summer meal sites that change the time of their meal service provide adequate notice to the community to ensure there is no loss in program access.

      To use the meal service times waiver, sponsors must:

      • Not change meal service times less than 24 hours in advance of the previously scheduled meal service time

      • Put up a printed notice or poster at the site indicating the change in meal service times to attendees.

      • Alert the community through appropriate channels.

      • Comply with any additional requirement(s) required by the State agency.

Criteria for Excessive Heat and/or Poor Air Quality Waiver

SFSP and SSO operators are required to notify the CDE of each excessive heat or poor air quality incident, must apply to use the waiver options, and be approved by the CDE before implementing the flexibility offered in either waiver. The CDE will evaluate the excessive heat or poor air quality waiver requests according to the following criteria:

  • The program operator is in good standing.

  • The program operator has no significant administrative review findings from the prior year.

  • Program operators will be required to serve meals in sealed containers, such as sealed sack lunch bags, that contain all required meal components.

  • Meals taken off-site may only be claimed on days for which approval has been granted by CDE and documentation is maintained.

  • Program operators must agree to report to CDE the outcome of the waiver, including the impact on meal service, number of meals by type served and taken off site and other pertinent details to non-congregate meal service.

  • All other program requirements, including those pertaining to the number and type of meals that may be served each day and meal service times, continue to apply.

How to Apply for a Non-Congregate Waiver Due to Excessive Heat or Poor Air Quality

Program operators can submit waiver requests through the Child Nutrition Information and Payment System (CNIPS) on the site application for the impacted site.

For SSO site applications, the information is found at question #26.

For SFSP site applications, the information is found at question #94.

Additional Resources

  • For days when air quality is a concern, but the purple flag threshold is not met, sponsors with outdoor sites should consider the outdoor activity guidance External link opens in new window or tab. developed by the EPA and the CDC.

  • The CDE encourages program operators to follow your organization’s procedures related to extreme temperatures. We encourage you to take necessary precautions to support children, youth, and staff during summer programming. You may want to consult your county public health department for further guidance on extreme heat or any health-related matters. The Symptoms of Heat-Related Illnesses External link opens in new window or tab. is available. Please help inform students and parents about what to look for and what to do when heat-related illnesses present themselves.

Contact Information

If you have any questions regarding this subject, please contact the Summer Nutrition Program and Grants Unit by email at

Questions:   Nutrition Services Division | 800-952-5609
Last Reviewed: Monday, June 17, 2024
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