Skip to main content
California Department of Education Logo
California Department of Education
Official Letter
California Department of Education
Official Letter

Dear Food Service Director:


On behalf of the California Department of Education (CDE) Nutrition Services Division (NSD), it is my pleasure to welcome you to the 2023–24 School Year (SY). To all our new and returning school nutrition leaders and professionals, thank you for your continued leadership, your dedication to child nutrition security, and your commitment to incorporating fresh, locally grown ingredients into your quality school meal programs.

Celebrating Successes

Undoubtedly, one of our greatest achievements this past SY is the successful implementation of California Universal School Meals. You and your teams showed the nation that it is possible to offer two nutritious meals to students each school day by serving approximately 826 million meals (preliminary data as of August 15, 2023), thus reducing childhood hunger and stigma while increasing equity for all. As part of California Universal School Meals, we saw a 15 percent increase in the number of local educational agencies (LEAs) or sponsors participating in the national School Breakfast Program. We also saw a 108 percent increase in Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) participation, with 608 sponsors participating in CEP last SY as compared to 293 sponsors in the 2018–19 SY.

Over the past two years, our school nutrition community has benefited from state and federal grants and special funding totaling over one billion dollars- not including meal reimbursements! These funds are dedicated to supporting the expansion of School Nutrition Programs (SNP) and staff training opportunities as well as increasing purchases of locally grown ingredients for use in flavorful, nutritious school meals. These investments, coupled with your thoughtful strategic planning, have begun transforming California’s Schools and Child Nutrition Programs (CNP) and shining the light on school meals as a crucial component to every child’s educational journey and academic success. Your work continues to demonstrate that school food professionals are essential and valued members of our California educational system, teaching California’s youth to make sustainable, healthy food and beverage choices, while simultaneously contributing towards greater academic performance and lifelong healthy habits.

Furthermore, these funds offer a great opportunity to advance farm to school connections. In partnership with local community members, farmers, and ranchers, we encourage you to engage in discussions about ways SNPs can celebrate your region’s cultural food practices and local agricultural community. Food builds community and our recent experiences during the pandemic highlighted the value and importance of strong community ties. In partnership with the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the CDE is available to help facilitate and sustain these local connections. Don’t forget, Farm to School month is October, and we are confident that every district has something to celebrate!

Building Real-Time Connection

One of our main priorities this year is to focus on building real-time connections with you so we can provide meaningful, value-added, and responsive technical assistance to support and celebrate your work. The CDE staff enjoy visiting your sites and observing and learning from your staff. Whether for National School Lunch Week, School Breakfast Week, Farm to School, Summer Meal kick-off events, or other activities, we value the opportunity to celebrate the role you play in supporting the health and wellness of your school communities. Please continue to invite us to your events.

The 2023–24 SY is the first year of the new five-year Administrative Review (AR) cycle, and we are resuming in-person site activities. Every School Food Authority (SFA) participating in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) receives an AR over this five-year period. For those SFAs with ARs this year, the CDE looks forward to partnering with you to support a successful SNP operation. We encourage SFAs to utilize their AR as an opportunity to ask for guidance in areas of need and to highlight accomplishments.

In September, the CDE will post the online Pre-Review Training (PRT) for SFAs to complete prior to their AR. The training will be posted on the CDE Child Nutrition Program Course Catalog which can be found at This mandatory training is a great opportunity to learn what will be reviewed as part of the AR, as well as to gather preparation tips and best practices. Our team has made extensive edits to the training to provide each module in an easy-to-digest manner, featuring common findings and sharing best practices to prevent them, as well as additional resources if you’re interested in learning more. If SFA staff have questions while taking the PRT, we encourage you to reach out to your assigned Child Nutrition Consultant (CNC). Your assigned CNC can be found in the Directory of Staff County Assignments: SNP/Claims/CNCs/SMU/CACFP/CCU (Form ID: Caseload), found in the Child Nutrition Payment System Download Forms Section at The list of SFAs scheduled for a review this SY is available on the CDE SNP AR Workload 2023–24 web page which can be found at

Training Opportunities

We plan to increase the frequency of live-webinar trainings and funding orientations, allowing your staff the opportunity to ask questions in real time. These training courses are helpful supplements to the extensive information already available on the CDE funding web pages. Furthermore, we are committed to continuing the monthly Tuesday @ 2 Town Hall webinars. The Town Halls provide SNP staff with an overview of federal and state policy updates, funding announcements and resources. Be sure you and your staff are signed up for the SNP Mailing List at

In the Spring of 2024, our NSD team will also resume the statewide in-person resource management and procurement training. This training provides useful information, best practices, and resources to support strong procurement practices and cafeteria fund internal controls and monitoring aids for increasing compliance and reducing the risk of fraud.

Last year, in support of the California Universal School Meals, the NSD offered the Introduction to School Nutrition Program Administration (ISNPA) webinar training series. In the coming year, we will once again offer in-person ISNPA training to orient new school nutrition staff. Scheduling information will be provided via the Tuesday @ 2 Town Hall and email.

Maximizing Funds

We are excited to learn more about how the $850 million dollars in Kitchen Infrastructure and Training (KIT) and School Food Best Practices funding has supported you in increasing meal service, staff training, and freshly prepared onsite meals featuring minimally processed, California grown foods. Please continue to share your stories and photos with us!

This SY we are pleased to be able to extend the temporary suspension of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Foods administrative fee of $0.90 per case or case equivalent for SY 2023–24. This is due in part to receiving funding from a processor and a required USDA Foods carryover inventory reduction plan. This funding allows us to help address the increased Food Distribution Program (FDP) state operational costs and temporarily suspend the $0.90 administrative fee through SY 2023–24. For more information on the fee suspension, visit CDE's FDP Administrative Fee Suspension for SY 2023–24 web page, which can be found at

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not include the importance of collecting alternative income forms and meal applications. SNP sponsors conducting standard counting and claiming are still required to make eligibility determinations through the collection of meal applications and conducting direct certification at least three times annually. This helps maximize not only the federal funding for the nutrition programs but also for other educational programs in your district. Note also that the collection of alternative income forms cannot be used in lieu of meal applications for the purpose of determining eligibility in the nutrition programs.

Looking Ahead…

Starting January 1, 2024, as part of Senate Bill (SB) 1383, the law establishing methane emissions reduction targets, requires LEAs with an on-site food facility to implement an edible food recovery program. These food recovery programs will divert edible food from entering landfills. In preparation, the CDE, in partnership with CalRecycle, have developed webinars and resources to support you as you work to meet this new requirement. Learn more about organic waste collection and edible food recovery program requirements on the CalRecycle Resources for Local Education Agencies: K-12 Public School and School Districts web page, viewable at

Later this year, the USDA will release the final rule aligning nutrition standards for school meals with the 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The CDE expects meal pattern changes for whole grains, sodium, added sugar, and milk. Strong nutrition requirements for the CNPs are the cornerstone of health for our students and we look forward to supporting you during this transition through enhanced technical assistance, and training. For more information on the proposed rule, visit the USDA’s web page at

The USDA also plans to release the final rule for the CEP. The USDA is proposing to decrease the 40 percent identified student percentage (ISP) threshold to 25 percent for LEAs, schools, or groups of schools to be eligible for the CEP. This change would provide the opportunity for more LEAs and schools to elect CEP. The proposed rule only adjusts the ISP threshold and does not increase the 1.6 multiplier for CEP. This proposed rule is expected to become final in the fall of SY 2023–24, and the change in the ISP threshold for CEP applications is expected to become effective starting with the 2024–25 SY.

As we continue to rebuild our post-pandemic meal service and strengthen our commitment to creating year-round access to meals, we turn our focus to supporting summer meal programs. This past summer, California hosted over 4,800 summer feeding sites. Looking ahead to summer nutrition programs in 2024, the NSD is responding to updated regulations and new USDA guidance from the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) final rule. The final rule streamlines program requirements and improves program integrity. In addition to changes in the final rule, the USDA has issued guidance on noncongregate feeding at rural sites; financial viability, capability, and administration; initial sites visits; vended meal site caps; and site selection. The SFSP operators can look forward to communications, trainings, listening sessions, and CNIPS updates that incorporate these updates and related guidance. We are hopeful that these additional flexibilities can expand opportunities for operators to increase the number of summer site operations and food access during summer.

Another exciting update is the new permanent Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) Program beginning in Summer 2024. This program provides $40 a month for food to eligible children over the Summer. The USDA must create regulations for the program by December 29, 2023. The USDA has shared some interim guidance for implementation in 2024; however, more guidance is expected in the future.

Your partnership in maximizing federal reimbursement is critical to preserving and extending our state’s investment in California’s Universal School Meals. Continue to partner with your administrators and school community when collecting meal applications if your site is on standard counting and claiming. Additionally, we encourage you to conduct direct certification on a monthly basis.

In closing, I want share with you how incredibly fortunate I feel to be a part of California’s school nutrition professional community. I look forward to another year of supporting you in serving quality, nutritious school meals to students year-round and statewide.

In the spirit of collaboration, respect, accountability, integrity, and making a positive difference,

Kim Frinzell, Director

Nutrition Services Division

Last Reviewed: Wednesday, August 30, 2023
Related Content
  • California Universal Meals
    Includes background, policy, provisions, webinars, resources, FAQs, and contacts regarding California’s Universal Meals Program.
  • Child Nutrition Programs Course Catalog
    A catalog of online training courses for program operators participating in the Child Nutrition Programs.
  • NSLP and SBP Meal Patterns
    Includes meal pattern requirements, online trainings, resources, compliance, policy guidance, and questions and answers for sponsors participating in the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program.

Recently Posted in Nutrition

  • Child Nutrition Program Integrity Final Rule (added 19-Sep-2023)
    On August 23, 2023, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service released SP 21-2023, Initial Implementation Memorandum: Child Nutrition Program Integrity Final Rule.
  • Net Cash Resources and Allowable Costs Reminder (added 19-Sep-2023)
    Program operators that have NCR of six months or more average operating expenses are required to have a budget agreement. Program operators are reminded that cafeteria funds are to be used for the operation and improvement of school food service.
  • Upcoming Webinars and Team Nutrition Materials (added 19-Sep-2023)
    The USDA’s Team Nutrition (TN) initiative is excited to share three upcoming webinar opportunities and a reminder to order TN’s print materials for National School Lunch Week, which is October 9-13, 2023.
  • Governor Newsom Expands State of Emergency (added 14-Sep-2023)
    Governor Newsom Expands State of Emergency Due to Tropical Storm Hilary Impacts in Siskiyou County.
  • Webinar: KIT Freshly Prepared Onsite Meal Criteria (added 12-Sep-2023)
    This announcement provides information on how to register for the KIT Freshly Prepared Onsite Meal Criteria webinar.