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California Department of Education
Official Letter
California Department of Education
Official Letter
August 12, 2022

Dear Food Service Director:

Welcome to School Year 2022–23

WELCOME BACK TO SCHOOL

On behalf of the California Department of Education (CDE) Nutrition Services Division (NSD) team, it is my pleasure to welcome you to the start of a truly historic 2022–23 School Year (SY). To all our returning school nutrition leaders and professionals, thank you for your steadfast dedication and service. It has been humbling to see firsthand how you have not only persevered, but have worked tirelessly to increase access to nutritious meals for our students. To all our new leaders and school nutrition professionals, I am so pleased that you have joined this amazing group of local school nutrition experts and champions. You have our NSD commitment that we are here to support you and partner with you as together, we embark on a new school year.

This is an exciting time to be a part of education in California with the implementation of Universal School Meals, Universal Pre-Kindergarten, and Universal Expanded Learning Opportunities. Building on the historic budget investments for our California students and schools, Universal Meals is one of seven key pillars for transforming schools designed to help students thrive while maximizing this once-in-a-generation opportunity to break the cycle of educational inequity, including nutrition insecurity.

The NSD team continues to work hard to ensure you and your staff have the skills, knowledge, guidance, resources, and funding to begin the transition to pre-pandemic meal operations. We are also here to support you in the successful implementation of the California Universal School Meals Program that establishes greater student access to a nutritious breakfast and lunch each school day at no cost to them, regardless of their eligibility.

Studies confirm that for far too many children, hunger and nutrition insecurity is real and the healthiest meals they receive are from the School Nutrition Programs (SNP). The investments from our California State Legislature acknowledge the importance of quality school meals by investing in school kitchen infrastructure, food service staff training, locally grown, fresh, minimally processed foods, and scratch cooked meals. These state investments build and expand upon similar federal investments such as the Supply Chain Assistance and the Local Foods for Schools funding and the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) Equipment Assistance grant. Additionally, the enhanced federal meal reimbursement for this SY and the ongoing state meal reimbursement offer much needed financial relief to rising operational costs.

We look forward to supporting you as you access these opportunities and implement them in ways that best meet your unique needs to help transform your nutrition services as an integral part of each student’s educational experience. It is exciting to think how these upcoming new investments and opportunities will expand and enrich the top-notch work you are already doing.

State Investments in Quality School Meals

Universal Meals

California is the first state in the nation to pass into law a statewide Universal Meals Program for school children, allocating $1.4 billion in state meal reimbursement. This funding ensures all schools participating in the NSLP and School Breakfast Program (SBP) receive supplemental state reimbursement to the federal meal rate ensuring all students in California have access to a nutritious breakfast and lunch each instructional day. To learn more about Universal Meals, please visit CDE’s California Universal Meals web page at https://www.cde.ca.gov/ls/nu/sn/cauniversalmeals.asp.

Kitchen Infrastructure and Food Service Professional Development

The legislature also approved an additional investment of $600 million dollars for school kitchen infrastructure and related support. This funding expands the state’s previous 2021 Kitchen Infrastructure and Training (KIT) funding investment and, combined, offers $750 million dollars for kitchen equipment and infrastructure, staff development, scratch cooking, and building the capacity to expand student meal options, including plant-based meals and restricted diets.

Freshly Prepared, Minimally Processed, Locally Grown, Scratch Cooked Meals

In addition, the legislature approved $100 million dollars to support School Food Best Practices to procure and integrate California-grown, minimally processed, sustainable or, plant-based meals and meals for pupils with restricted diets. This funding builds upon the work that many of you are already doing to procure locally and sustainably grown foods, as well as to scratch cook using minimally processed ingredients. This is also an exciting opportunity to support plant-based meals and enhance restricted diet options.

Federal Investments in Quality School Meals

Meal Reimbursement Rates

In recognition of rising food costs, the recently released 2022−23 SY meal reimbursement rates included a temporary per-meal increase in addition to the required annual adjustment. The Keep Kids Fed Act authorized for the 2022−23 SY, an additional 15 cent increase in the SBP per-meal rate and an additional 40 cents for the NSLP per-meal rate.

Procurement Supports

The federal Supply Chain Assistance Funds were renewed for a second year, providing an additional $108 million dollars, totaling a combined $223 million dollars statewide to help mitigate rising food costs and to fund the purchase of domestic unprocessed or minimally-processed food products.

Local Foods for Schools Funding

California is expecting approximately $23 million dollars through the federal Local Foods for School Cooperative grant. This funding also supports the purchase of local food products that are unprocessed or minimally processed and focus on sourcing from local, regional, small and socially disadvantaged farmers and producers.

NSLP Equipment Assistance Grant

This year, the federal NSLP Assistance grant increased by a half-million dollars, bringing the total award to $4.1 million dollars. These funds will work in concert with the state KIT funds to equip school food service professionals and facilities to better meet the growing demand for fresh, minimally processed meals. The U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) has also removed the requirement that only schools with high free and reduced-price student populations are eligible to receive funding, further expanding the number of schools eligible to apply for funds.

Tracking Funding Opportunities

In order to assist you in tracking these funding opportunities, we are in the process of adding a new Funding tab to our CDE NSD Nutrition What’s New web page at https://www.cde.ca.gov/ls/nu/nutritionwhatsnew.asp, which will provide you with an at-a-glance review of funding-related communications. We will continue to review available opportunities during the Tuesday@2 Nutrition Town Hall webinars as well as send funding-specific listservs. For more information on funding opportunities, subscribe to the SNP Mailing List web page at https://www.cde.ca.gov/ls/nu/sn/snpmail.asp.

Supports for Implementing Universal Meals

In an effort to prepare and support school food service professionals, the NSD has developed various technical assistance and professional development opportunities and resources.

Professional Development and Training Opportunities

  • Child Nutrition Programs (CNP) Course Catalog web page at https://www.cde.ca.gov/ls/nu/ed/cnpcoursecatalog.asp: The Course Catalog offers online training courses for program operators to assist with professional standards requirements, professional development and compliance needs.

  • Tuesday@2 School Nutrition Town Hall Meetings: The town halls occur the fourth Tuesday of every month and provide an opportunity for schools to learn about requirements and best practices for operating their programs.

  • Introduction to SNP Administration (ISNPA) training series: The ISNPA training series began in June 2022 and offers monthly webinars through winter 2023. The training series supports the implementation of Universal Meals and also orients school nutrition staff to the processes and policies of SNPs. The training recordings will be posted on the CNP Course Catalog once available.

The registration information for the Tuesday@2 School Nutrition Town Hall meetings or ISNPA trainings are announced via the SNP listserv. Sign up for the SNP listservs by sending a request to the following email address: join-snp-web@mlist.cde.ca.gov.

Other Resources

  • SNP Universal Meals Quick Reference Guides: The CDE developed 16 Quick Reference Guides that provide you with the information most critical in administering the SNPs. Each Quick Reference Guide addresses standard, pre-pandemic program requirements, steps to meet the requirements, and also provides links to supportive resources. These guides can be used to inform training opportunities and staff support onboarding. You can find the Quick Reference Guides in the Download Forms section of the Child Nutrition Information & Payment System web page at https://www.cnips.ca.gov/Splash.aspx.

  • California Universal Meals Resources web page at https://wwww.cde.ca.gov/ls/nu/sn/cauniversalmeals.asp: The CDE’s California Universal Meals web page offers information about Universal School Meals, including various resources and frequently asked questions.

Meal Pattern Standards

On July 1, 2022, the USDA final rule establishing new transitional meal standards for milk, whole grains, and sodium went into effect. These standards support the USDA’s intent to ensure students have access to nutritious school meals. In an effort to prepare school food service staff, CDE released Management Bulletin SNP-03-2022 which provides an outline of the Transitional Meal Standards for SY 2022–23 and 2023–24, (https://www.cde.ca.gov/ls/nu/mbsnp032022.asp) including meal pattern updates.

Additionally, CDE’s SBP and NSLP Meal Patterns web page at https://www.cde.ca.gov/ls/nu/he/smi.asp was updated to reflect these changes. Finally, these meal pattern updates were reflected in the ISNPA training on NSLP and SBP: Meal Pattern Training held on June 21, 2022. This training is in the process of being posted to our website and we will announce it once it is available.

Waivers

In the midst of transitioning back to pre-pandemic meal service, it is important to note in the event of direct COVID-19 impacts, there are a number of state-specific and nationwide SNP waivers available should you need them. I strongly encourage you to complete both the Summer 2022 CNP Waiver Elections application at https://surveys3.cde.ca.gov/go/summer22cnpwaivers.asp and the SY 2022–23 SNP Waiver Elections application at https://surveys3.cde.ca.gov/go/sy2223snpwaivers.asp.

You may opt into these waivers at any time during the respective meal service period, Summer 2022 or SY 2022–23, however we encourage you to proactively secure these flexibilities so that they are available in the event that you need them. With the use of the waivers, there remains the required reporting and maintaining of your documentation regarding the COVID-19 related issues to your meal service. Remember our acronym: Be K.I.N.D. (Keep Important Nutrition Documentation). For questions about the waivers, please contact your agency’s assigned specialist or email COVIDWaivers2022-2023@cde.ca.gov.

Once again, thank you for all you do every day to serve your students and the community. All of us at the CDE celebrate and applaud you and your staff for your successful effort to provide dependable access to healthy foods and meals during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

We would love to help share your successes more broadly. Please send photos, video clips, and narratives showing your quality menus, nutrition education and student engagement, new equipment you have purchased, trainings you have provided, or plant-based and special diet meals you have created by emailing them to HHFKA@cde.ca.gov. Your enthusiastic team photos, innovative meals, and creative school meal promotions are an inspiration.

In closing, I want share with you how incredibly fortunate I feel to be a part of California’s school nutrition professional community with you. I look forward to another year of making history, and supporting you in serving 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: Tuesday, August 16, 2022
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