Summer Nutrition Waivers Available for States

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Summer Nutrition Waivers Available for States

If you follow this blog, you are well aware of the fact that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) nationwide waiver authority to provide flexibilities to school nutrition programs expires on June 30 without further Congressional action (tell Congress to take action here).

To provide some flexibility after the nationwide waivers have expired, the USDA has created a waiver checklist that allows state child nutrition agencies to opt into specific state waivers. This way, each state is not required to submit its own waiver request for each type of waiver.

The two Summer Food Service Program and Seamless Summer Option state waivers included in the checklist are 1) Parent Pick-Up: which allows parents and guardians to pick up meals for their children and 2) Non-Congregate: which allows meals to be eaten offsite. 

These state waivers can be used when congregate meal service is limited by the pandemic and expire on September 30, 2022.

In addition to the waivers included in the checklist, states can apply for four waivers that were available prior to the pandemic, which are available through April 30, 2023:

  • Offer versus serve: Sites offer the required components for a reimbursable breakfast or lunch, but the child is only required to take a certain number of items or components for the meal to be reimbursed and may take all of the components offered.
  • First Week Site Visit: States can waive the requirement to conduct a site visit during the first week of meal service.
  • Meal Service Time Restrictions: This provision offers flexibility for when meals can be served, including providing multiple meals if used in combination with the non-congregate and parent pick-up waiver.
  • Area Eligibility for Closed Enrolled Sites: Summer meal sites that only serve children enrolled in the program are allowed to use area eligibility data instead of collecting household income forms to document that at least half of the children served are eligible for free or reduced-price school meals.

Two waivers that many communities relied on will not be available this summer: Area Eligibility:  which allowed sites to operate in any area without meeting the requirement that 50 percent of the children in the area are eligible for free or reduced-price school meals; and Meal Pattern Requirements that provide flexibility in meeting the nutrition standards. 

For area eligibility, USDA is offering flexibility on how to document that a school meets the area eligibility requirement if a school has not collected school meal applications.

Option 1 is using the percentage of students certified for free or reduced-price school meals during the 2019–2020 school year.

Option 2 is multiplying the percentage of students in the school who are certified for free school meals without an application by 1.6. This approach is similar to the Community Eligibility Provision to qualify a site. Sites also can still use census data and other approved data to demonstrate that the site is in a low-income area.

Due to certain constraints, USDA cannot provide flexibility around meeting the nutrition standards without the nationwide waiver authority. Congress still has time to extend the waiver authority, tell them to do so using the Legislative Action Center