Excessive Heat and Poor Air Quality Waivers
On July 26, 2023, 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.
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.
This waiver is intended to ensure continuity of meal service at outdoor sites on days when excessive heat makes service of congregate meals impractical or dangerous. The waiver may only be used when high temperatures could not reasonably be planned for and may not be used to respond to high temperatures that are typical of the area in which the site is located.
Eligible program operators approved for congregate meal service will be allowed to apply for this waiver to operate meal services in a non-congregate manner only on days when the National Weather Service has issued a heat advisory, an excessive heat warning, or an excessive heat watch in the area in which the 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, which are affected by poor air quality due to causes such as wildfires or smog.
Eligible program operators approved for congregate meal service will be allowed to apply for this waiver to operate meal services in a non-congregate manner only on days when the site’s zip code has an Air Quality Index purple flag or higher, as indicated on the Air Now website .
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 flexibilities 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 must submit and retain excessive heat or poor air quality advisory documentation from the day(s) in which the site experienced extreme heat or poor air quality.
- 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 the 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.
- Additionally, 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.
The CDE has requested a waiver for meal service time flexibility and will notify summer meal operators if the waiver is approved.
How to Apply for a Non-Congregate Waiver Due to Excessive Heat or Poor Air Quality
Program operators can submit waiver requests to SFSP@cde.ca.gov.
Please include the following information:
- Operator name and CNIPS ID
- Program Type (SSO or SFSP)
- Name and CNIPS site number of impacted site(s)
- The impacted dates due to the excessive heat and/or poor air quality and supporting documentation.
- Confirmation that the site does not have a viable indoor alternative location to operate congregate meal service on the impacted days.
Operators will receive an email notifying them whether their waiver request was granted to serve non-congregate meals or if the request was denied.
- 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 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 following link Warning Signs and Symptoms of Heat-Related Illness | Natural Disasters and Severe Weather | CDC is available in both English and Spanish. Please help inform students and parents about what to look for and what to do when heat-related illnesses present themselves.
If you have any questions regarding this subject, please contact the Summer Nutrition Program and Grants Unit by email at SFSP@cde.ca.gov.