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Nutrition & Meals Guidance

Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness that can spread from person-to-person and the number of cases in Washington is growing. Below are guidance and resources for school districts to use as they continue to provide meals during school closures. 

Important Updates

CNS Update: USDA Releases 6 Nationwide Waivers

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently released 6 nationwide waiver approval letters for states under Section 2202 of H.R. 6201, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act related to Child Nutrition.

1. COVID-19: Child Nutrition Response #1;  Nationwide Waiver to Allow Meal Service Time Flexibility in the Child Nutrition Programs

    • This waiver applies to the National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, Child and Adult Care Food Program, and Summer Food Service Program.
    • Waives meal time requirements to support streamlined access to meals including providing more than 1 meal during pick up or delivery service.
    • Washington State will participate in this waiver.
    • There are no further requirements from sponsors at this time.
    • This waiver is effective immediately and will remain in effect until June 30, 2020, or until expiration of the federally declared public health emergency, whichever is earlier.

    2. COVID–19: Child Nutrition Response #2; Nationwide Waiver to Allow Non-congregate Feeding in the Child Nutrition Programs

      • This waiver applies to the National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, Child and Adult Care Food Program, and Summer Food Service Program.
      • Allows for meal service using grab and go and meal delivery options. 
      • Washington State will participate in this waiver.
      • There are no further requirements from sponsors at this time.
      • This waiver is effective immediately and will remain in effect until June 30, 2020, or until expiration of the federally declared public health emergency, whichever is earlier.

      3. COVID-19: Child Nutrition Response #3; Nationwide Waiver of the Activity Requirement in Afterschool Care Child Nutrition Programs

        • This waiver applies to afterschool snacks in the National School Lunch Program and at-risk afterschool meals and snacks in the Child and Adult Care Food Program.
        • Waives the requirement for schools and at risk afterschool care centers to serve meals and snacks in a structured and supervised environment, with an education or enrichment activity.
        • Washington State will participate in this waiver.
        • There are no further requirements from sponsors at this time.
        • This waiver is effective immediately and will remain in effect until June 30, 2020, or until expiration of the federally declared public health emergency, whichever is earlier.

        4. COVID–19: Child Nutrition Response #4; Nationwide Waiver to Allow Meal Pattern Flexibility in the Child Nutrition Programs

          • This waiver applies to the National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, Child and Adult Care Food Program, and Summer Food Service Program.
          • This waives the requirements to serve meals that meet the meal pattern requirements.
          • Washington State will participate in this waiver.
          • Sponsors are approved on a case-by-case basis – OSPI CNS is currently working on a procedure for this. Please keep an eye out for future CNS updates regarding next steps.
          • This waiver is effective immediately and will remain in effect until April 30, 2020, or until expiration of the federally declared public health emergency, whichever is earlier.
          • As a reminder, Federal procurement regulations at 2 CFR 200.320(f) allow procurement by noncompetitive proposals when there is a public emergency.

          5. COVID–19: Child Nutrition Response #5; Nationwide Waiver to Allow Parents and Guardians to Pick Up Meals for Children

            • This waiver applies to the National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, Child and Adult Care Food Program, and Summer Food Service Program.
            • This allows program operators to distribute meals to a parent or guardian to take home to their children. Program integrity must be maintained. Program operators must have processes in place to ensure:
              • Meals are distributed only to parents or guardians of eligible children;
              • Duplicate meals are not distributed to any child.
              • Washington State will participate in this waiver.
              • OSPI CNS is currently working on a procedure for this. Please keep an eye out for future CNS updates regarding next steps.
              • This waiver is effective immediately and will remain in effect until June 30, 2020, or until expiration of the federally declared public health emergency, whichever is earlier.

              Additionally, USDA released COVID–19: Child Nutrition Response #6; Nationwide Waiver of Community Eligibility Provision Deadlines in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. Which extends the School Year 2020-21 CEP application deadline until August 31, 2020. Please read the full policy for additional information.

              Guidance continues to be updated, please refer to the most current CNS Update. 

              CNS Update: Important COVID-19 Coronavirus Information - Serving Meals

              Thank you to everyone as we continue to navigate a response to this COVID-19 outbreak. We appreciate your questions and patience! We continue to communicate to USDA on a daily basis, to seek guidance, and check on status of waivers. Please review the CNS Update provided on March 6 regarding waiver requests.

              Additionally, the USDA has released a question and answer document providing guidance for Child Nutrition Program Meal Service during COVID-19 outbreaks. We are working on resources and detailed guidance. 

              The following outlines the most common scenarios. Additionally, please follow any directions from your local health jurisdiction regarding meal distribution.

              One or more schools in our district will be closed intermittently for deep cleaning. Can we feed students from these schools? Yes! Options include:

              • Serve meals through NSLP/SBP: Serve students from the closed school site. (Meals can be prepared on-site, or off-site.)
              • Serve meals through NSLP/SBP: Serve students from the closed school from another operating school site. 
              • Meals may be served as “grab n go”.
              • Meal counts NSLP/SBP must maintain by name meal counting.
              • Serve up to two meals at one time (i.e. breakfast AND lunch).
              • Serve meals through SFSP/SSO: See below.

              One or more schools OR our entire district is closed. We participated in the SFSP/SSO in the past two years, can we serve meals and claim them under SFSP/SSO? Yes!

              • Serve meals through SFSP or SSO.
              • Serve all children ages 0–18 years.
              • Meals may be served as “grab n go”.
              • Meal counts for SFSP or SSO can be by tally sheet (by name meal counting is NOT required).
              • Serve up to two meals at one time (i.e. breakfast AND lunch).
              • The WINS SFSP/SSO application opens Friday, March 13.
              • Visit the SFSP webpages for more information about meal pattern, tally sheets, training, and more.
              • Visit the SSO webpages for more information about meal pattern, tally sheetstraining, and more.
              • Notify OSPI immediately if you plan to operate SFSP or SSO.
                • Complete the COVID-19 Meal Distribution Plan.
                • Want to operate SSO? Submit this form to your NSLP specialist.
                • Plan to operate SFSP? Submit this form to summermeals@k12.wa.us.

              One or more schools OR our entire district is closed. We have never participated in the SFSP/SSO, but we have area eligible sites (50% or more Free and Reduced-Price (F/RP)) are there meal service options for us? Yes!

              • Serve meals through SSO (at schools that qualify as area eligible).
              • Serve all children ages 0 – 18 years.
              • Meals may be served as “grab n go”.
              • Meal counts for SSO can be by tally sheet (by name meal counting is NOT required).
              • Serve up to two meals at one time (i.e. breakfast AND lunch).
              • The WINS SFSP/SSO application opens Friday, March 13.
              • Visit the SFSP webpages for more information about meal pattern, tally sheets, training, and more.
              • Visit the SSO webpages for more information about meal pattern, tally sheetstraining, and more.
              • Notify OSPI immediately if you plan to operate SSO.
                • Complete the COVID-19 Meal Distribution Plan.
                • Submit this form to your NSLP specialist.

              One or more schools OR our entire district is closed and schools in our district are not area eligible (less than 50% F/RP). Are there options for feeding students? Yes!

              • Serve meals through NSLP/SBP (if some schools are open) – see above.
              • Operate a “Closed Enrolled Site” through the SSO program.
                • Closed Enrolled Sites target low-income students in non-area eligible schools.
              • This option takes careful planning - please consult with your program specialist.
              • Visit the SSO webpages for more information about meal pattern, tally sheetstraining, and more.
              • Notify OSPI immediately if you plan to operate SSO.
                • Complete the COVID-19 Meal Distribution Plan.
                • Submit this form to your NSLP specialist.

              Do we have to follow the meal pattern requirements?

              Yes. As of now, USDA has not waived meal pattern requirements. OSPI Child Nutrition Services is exploring the potential need to waive meal pattern requirements in particular the vegetable sub groups and milk requirements.  We will notify all local education agencies as new information becomes available.

              USDA has waived the Offer vs. Serve requirements and schools must serve a unitized meal. We encourage a simple menu that meets meal pattern requirements and is comprised of single use packaged items, as available. Schools may wish to contact their local health department for strategies to reduce contact and contamination. 

              Thinking of offering the SFSP?

              Visit the SFSP webpages for more information about meal pattern, tally sheets, training, and more!

              Thinking of offering the SSO?

              Visit the SSO webpages for more information about meal pattern, tally sheetstraining, and more!

              Please be patient. We are releasing guidance as soon as it becomes available and answering individual questions as quickly as possible. Program regulations can be complicated and we want to ensure students are fed and regulations for operation are met in these unprecedented circumstances. 

              Guidance continues to be updated, please refer to the most current CNS Update. 

              CNS Update: Important COVID-19 Coronavirus Information - USDA Waiver Request

              OSPI continues to monitor the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and work in collaboration with health and government officials. Please continue to monitor the situation in your community and work with your local health jurisdiction for information and guidance.

              The following outlines options for meal service during interruptions and closures to school days.

              • If a district/school is closed but still “operational” (i.e. distance learning/certain schools open):
                 - Meals may be served through NSLP/SBP.
                 - Follow your approved counting and claiming (by name meal counts unless operating CEP or Provision).
                 - Grab-n-Go / sack lunches are allowed.
              • If a district/school is closed:
                 - Qualifying schools/site may operate the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) or Seamless Summer Option (SSO).
                 - Qualifying school/site: Area Eligible by school data (F/R ≥50%) or census data.
                 - Refer to the Unanticipated School Closure reference sheet.
                 - Congregate (group) meal service is required (i.e. Grab-N-Go is NOT allowable).
              • Meal pattern requirements are still in effect. However, strategies to minimize exposure should be considered (CNS is in the process of creating a tip sheet on best practices.)

              Waiver requests to USDA
              OSPI is seeking two waivers from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Food and Nutrition Services. The purpose of these waivers is to support schools and communities in providing meals to children in areas experiencing school closures in response to COVID-19.

              1. Waiver to allow operation of the SFSP/SSO for emergency school closures in non-Area Eligible schools/locations.
                This waiver would allow schools in areas not designated as high need to offer meals to students under the Emergency School Closure provision of the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) or Seamless Summer Option (SSO). Please note, this waiver has NOT been approved by USDA. We will provide this information if/as soon as we receive word.
              2. Waiver to allow non-congregate feeding during operation of the SFSP/SSO for emergency school closures.
                This waiver would allow for a Grab-N-Go meal service that would limit participants’ interaction and proximity to other participants and therefore decrease the risk of COVID-19 exposure. 3/6/2020 This waiver has been approved.

               Additionally, CNS is working with Food Banks and Hunger Advocacy groups to provide support to communities experiencing school closures.

              Unanticipated Closure Resources 

              Frequently Asked Questions

              Sponsors have the option to serve meals under the Seamless Summer Option (SSO) or the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) during unanticipated school closures.

              Sponsors are not required to serve meals during an unanticipated school closure. However, sponsors are encouraged to develop plans and resources to ensure low-income families’ needs are met during extended closures.

              Sponsors are allowed to provide free meals and claim reimbursement for meals served to children who are 18 years old or younger and adults with a disability who are more than 18 years old who are enrolled in educational programs for persons with disabilities.

              Sponsors who contract with FSMCs and who want to operate during school closure due to COVID-19, need to sign a contract amendment template.  The contract amendment includes seven amended sections, identifies which program(s) will be operated (SFSP/SSO), the effective date, and the fixed price per meal equivalent.

              SFA sponsors that do not currently operate a summer program can operate under the Seamless Summer Option (SSO) or the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) during emergency school closures. A new Permanent Agreement must be on file to include the SFSP. Program Specialists will work with you to ensure this documentation is obtained. 

              Either school data or census data can be used to establish area eligibility in SSO or SFSP. In order to use school data, the meal service site must be located within the attendance area of a school where at least 50% of the students are eligible for free or reduced-price school meals. For census data, the Averaged Eligibility Map should be used. Sites located in an orange or blue area on the map are eligible based off census data. 

              SFA sponsors can use any month from SY 19-20 to qualify their site as area eligible. This data should be included with the submission of your Meal Distribution Plan.

              During the COVID-19 outbreak, school districts can operate non-area eligible sites as open sites under SSO/SFSP. OSPI’s recommendation is to operate at area eligible sites to the maximum extent practicable. Non-area eligible sites should be operated in order to fill the needs of their community.

              Yes, bus routes and other delivery methods may be used to deliver meals. For all delivery methods, meal counts must be maintained and claimed by the school for which the children fall in the attendance area of. Each site must have site application and calendar submitted in WINS. Schools must protect the confidentiality of students and their households throughout this process.

              The Unanticipated Closures Meal Distribution Plan must be submitted to your CNS Program Specialist prior to serving meals during the unanticipated school closure. Once OPSI has received the Meal Distribution Plan and confirmed area eligibility for sites to operate, the sponsor may serve and claim meals. The WINS SSO/SFSP application must be submitted within 2 weeks of beginning the emergency meal service. 

              OSPI must be notified immediately if a sponsor plans to serve meals during an unanticipated school closure and the Meal Distribution Plan must be submitted. Once OSPI has received the Meal Distribution Plan and confirmed eligibility of the sites to operate, the sponsor may be eligible to serve meals. The WINS SSO/SFSP application must be submitted and approved within 2 weeks of beginning the emergency meal service, in order for the meals to be eligible for reimbursement. 

              Sponsors are not required to submit a Media Release but are required to advertise within the community that free meals are available during the unanticipated school closure. This can be done in a number of ways. Please consider area children enrolled in programs participating in CACFP that may also be affected by the closure of childcare centers or ECEAP/Headstart programs. Use of reader boards or the school district website is encouraged to promote free meals within the community. It is discouraged to send students of a closed school to an operating school to receive meals. Please operate all sites in accordance with the local Health Department’s guidance. 

              Training is not required for returning sponsors to operate during unanticipated school closures. New Sponsors must review the recorded Summer trainings. All SFSP rules must be maintained. 

              Sponsors to the maximum extent practicable should complete all 3 required monitoring visits. At a minimum, the site review must be conducted within the first 4 weeks of operation. All monitoring visit forms can be found on OSPI’s webpage. 

              Yes, sponsors operating SSO must meet all NSLP meal pattern requirements, including vegetable subgroups and milk variety. 

              Document what foods you are not able to obtain, as well as what you substituted, and notify your program specialist – we must document the types of shortages sponsors are experiencing. If you have questions about substitution options, contact your program specialist.

              USDA has a flexibility in the event of emergencies. We, as a state, will allow meal service to continue without milk/ milk alternates available according to 7 CFR 210.10(d)(2) for sponsors operating the NSLP/SSO and 7 CFR 225.16(f)(6) for sponsors offering the SFSP. Please document the shortage of milk and any substitute you offered.

              If non-congregate meals (i.e. Grab’n’Go) are being served, unitized meals, including milk, must be served. Offer vs. Serve is not allowed. 

              Sponsors are required to make substitutions to meals for participants with a disability that restricts participant’s diet on a case-by-case basis and only when supported by a written statement from a State licensed healthcare professional, who is authorized to write medical prescriptions under State law.

              Sponsors may distribute two meal types in one meal service. Sponsors should note on the top of the daily Meal Tally Form, the specific meals being provided. For example, if both breakfast and lunch are being distributed, “Breakfast and Lunch provided to each student” should be noted on the daily Meal Tally Form. Separate Meal Tally Forms would not need to be kept for both breakfast and lunch, if this procedure is followed. Each sponsor must submit a COVID-19 Meal Distribution plan prior to serving meals. The meal distribution plan should detail how sponsor plans to track the meals distributed and what food safety precautions will be taken. 

              Sponsors may choose to serve meals to adults. An adult who works directly with the meal service at the summer site as either a volunteer or an employee is considered a program adult. Program adult meals cannot be claimed for reimbursement but may be served for free and can count as an operating cost. Non-program adults who do not work in any direct way with the meal service must be charged the adult meal price or the Sponsor must use other non-program funds to cover the full cost of the meal.

              If the neighborhood school is participating in SSO/SFSP, then meals are available to all children in the community that are 18 years old or younger.

              Family Style meal service is not a USDA requirement and OSPI does not require sponsors to use this type of meal service. Family style meal service may be required by the Department of Child, Youth and Families as part of your early learning program.  Please check with DCYF on these requirements.   

              For questions regarding the SSO, contact your NSLP Specialist. For questions regarding the SFSP, contact summermeals@k12.wa.us.

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