|DATE:||April 21, 2020|
|CODE:||COVID-19: Child Nutrition Response #13|
|SUBJECT:||Nationwide Waiver to Allow Meal Pattern Flexibility in the Child Nutrition Programs - Extension|
Pursuant to section 2202(a) of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (the Act) (PL 116-127) and in light of the exceptional circumstances of this public health emergency, the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) is extending a nationwide waiver to support access to nutritious meals while minimizing potential exposure to the novel coronavirus (COVID–19). This extension of Nationwide Waiver to Allow Meal Pattern Flexibility in the Child Nutrition programs, issued March 25, 2020, applies to the National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, Child and Adult Care Food Program, and Summer Food Service Program (the child nutrition programs).
Section 2202(a) of the Act permits the Secretary of Agriculture to establish a waiver for all states for the purposes of providing meals under the child nutrition programs, with appropriate safety measures, as determined by the Secretary.
Under program regulations at 7 CFR 210.10(b) and (c), 220.8(b) and (c), 225.16(d), and 226.20, child nutrition program meals must meet meal pattern requirements. However, FNS recognizes that, in this public health emergency, appropriate safety measures are necessary. Therefore, for all states, FNS extends its waiver of the requirements at 7 CFR 210.10(b) and (c), 220.8(b) and (c), 225.16(d), and 226.20, to serve meals that meet the meal pattern requirements during the public health emergency.
Consistent with section 2202(a)(2) of the Act, this waiver is automatically available to all states that elect to use it, without further application. State agencies must inform their regional office if they elect to be subject to the waiver. However, in order to participate under this waiver, local program operators must contact the state agency for approval to utilize this waiver. Elections and approvals under the initial waiver will continue under this extension; no further action is needed.
When reviewing requests from local program operators, the state agency should consider requests that are targeted and justified based upon disruptions to the availability of food products resulting from unprecedented impacts of COVID-19. FNS expects and strongly encourages program operators to maintain and meet the nutrition standards for each program to the greatest extent possible. FNS stands ready to provide technical assistance and to offer alternatives to help stakeholders meet meal patterns. As a reminder, federal procurement regulations at 2 CFR 200.320(f) allow procurement by noncompetitive proposals when there is a public emergency.
State agencies should inform local program operators of the extension of this waiver as quickly as possible, and work in partnership with them to determine if this waiver is necessary to ensure access to nutritious meals. The state agency must approve use of this waiver on a case-by-case basis, and must report to the FNS Regional Office when and where this waiver is in effect and for what food components.
This waiver extension remains in effect until May 31, 2020, or until expiration of the federally declared public health emergency, whichever is earlier. FNS is offering this flexibility in short-term increments and will reevaluate the continued need for the waiver as the situation continues to evolve. Please note, this extension will remain available to local program operators that transition from unanticipated school closure operations to traditional summer operations prior to the waiver expiration date.
As required by section 2202(d), each state that elects to be subject to this waiver must submit a report to the Secretary not later than 1 year after the date such state received the waiver. The report must include:
- A summary of the use of this waiver by the state agency and local program operators, and
- A description of whether and how this waiver resulted in improved services to program participants.
FNS stands ready to provide assistance to areas impacted by COVID–19, and intends to continue supporting access to nutritious meals during this public health emergency.
FNS appreciates the exceptional effort of state agencies and local program operators working to meet the nutritional needs of participants during a challenging time. State agencies should direct questions to the appropriate FNS regional office.
Angela M. Kline
Policy and Program Development Division
The contents of this guidance document do not have the force and effect of law and are not meant to bind the public in any way. This document is intended only to provide clarity to the public regarding existing requirements under the law or agency policies.