We wanted you to know that the USDA has acted today on important waivers. The lack of flexibility on school meal programs has been front and center for us over the past few weeks. We reached out to the Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Stephen Censky and the Undersecretary Brandon Lipps who have both been very responsive. We are very excited that Secretary Sonny Perdue signed waivers today on several aspects of the law and regulation that needed to be relaxed.
Among the biggest issues you and others have raised with us was the insistence by regulators that each child be physically present in order to get a meal. We wanted parents/guardians to be able to pick up a child’s meal without having the health risks involved with everyone showing up. This issue is among those addressed by waivers signed by the Secretary.
Below is a summary of the components of waivers announced by the USDA today, as well as a list of the waivers that the USDA has already put in place. We are also going to have a follow up call with Undersecretary Lipps on Monday to discuss any issues that remain. Each of these issues has a hyperlink to the related USDA guidance.
Newly Issued Waivers
Nationwide Parent/Guardian Meal Pickup Waiver: FNS is allowing states approved for non-congregate feeding to waive the rule preventing parents and guardians from picking up meals for their children, as long as they protect accountability and integrity. (Guidance for States on the Meal Pickup Waiver)
Nationwide Meal Pattern Waiver: FNS has provided nationwide approval for states to locally waive specific meal pattern requirements as needed to support access to nutritious meals when certain foods are not available due to the novel coronavirus. (Guidance for States on the Meal Pattern Waiver)
Nationwide Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) Data Waiver: FNS is extending CEP election, notification and reporting and deadlines for School Year 2020-21. (Guidance for States on the CEP Waiver)
Previously Announced Waivers
Congregate Meal Waivers: FNS has approved waivers from all 50 states, DC, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands, enabling Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and National School Lunch Program Seamless Summer Option (SSO) sponsors to serve meals in a non-congregate setting and at school sites during school closures related to the coronavirus. FNS also issued guidance on meal delivery using existing authorities in summer meal programs.
Pandemic EBT: As a result of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act of 2020, children who would receive free or reduced price meals if not for school closures are eligible to receive assistance under this provision. USDA is providing guidance to state agencies on plan requirements in order to receive approval. (Guidance for States on Pandemic EBT)
Nationwide Meal Times Waiver: FNS has provided a nationwide waiver to waive the requirement that Child Nutrition Program meals must follow meal service time requirements and also allow state agencies to adjust the time of meal services, including the suspension of meal times as needed. (Guidance for States on the Meal Times Nationwide Waiver)
Nationwide Afterschool Activity Waiver: FNS has provided a nationwide waiver to waive the requirement that afterschool meals and snacks must be served in a school or program with an educational or enrichment purposes and that the meals and snacks must be served in a structured and supervised environment with an educational enrichment activity. (Guidance for States on the Afterschool Activity Nationwide Waiver)
Kevin Gordon, President
Capitol Advisors Group, LLC
California’s Leading Advocates for Education