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Nationwide Waiver to Allow Summer Food Service Program Reimbursement Rates in School Year 2021-2022

EO Guidance Document #
FNS-GD-2021-0039
FNS Document #
COVID–19: Child Nutrition Response #86
Resource type
Policy Memos
Waivers
Guidance Documents
Resource Materials
DATE: April 20, 2021
POLICY MEMO: COVID–19: Child Nutrition Response #86
SUBJECT: Nationwide Waiver to Allow Summer Food Service Program Reimbursement Rates in School Year 2021-2022
TO: Regional Directors
Special Nutrition Programs
All Regions
State Directors
Child Nutrition Programs
All States

Pursuant to Section 2202(a) of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (the FFCRA) (PL 116-127), as extended by the Continuing Appropriations Act, 2021 and Other Extensions Act (PL 116-159), and in light of the exceptional circumstances of this public health emergency, the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) is establishing a nationwide waiver to allow school food authorities to claim National School Lunch Program Seamless Summer Option (SSO) meals and snacks at the applicable Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) reimbursement rates in school year 2021-2022. This waiver recognizes the increased cost of providing child nutrition programs meals in the public health emergency, and supports efforts to serve meals in a safe and accessible manner that minimizes potential exposure to the novel coronavirus (COVID–19).

Section 2202(a) of the FFCRA 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 the National School Lunch Act, 42 USC 1761(b)(1)(C), school food authorities operating SSO are reimbursed for meals and snacks at rates in accordance with those of the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program. SSO meals and snacks are excluded from using the SFSP reimbursement rates. However, FNS recognizes that school food authorities have incurred significant costs during COVID-19 operations, and need additional support and flexibility to continue serving meals to children while maintaining appropriate safety measures in school year 2021-2022.

Allowing school food authorities to claim SSO meals and snacks at the SFSP reimbursement rates will provide additional funding to offset the costs associated with providing a safe meal service. School food authorities have reported increased operational costs during the pandemic, including hazard pay, personal protective equipment, meal delivery costs, and packaging costs for individually wrapped, grab-and-go meals. These costs have been necessary to protect the health and safety of students, families, and school food service professionals. Many of these costs will remain in place as students return to the classroom, and school food service professionals work to provide nutritious meals in a safe and accessible manner in the new school year.

Therefore, pursuant to the waiver authority cited above, FNS waives, for all states, the requirement at 42 USC 1761(b)(1)(C) that reimbursements for SSO meals and snacks shall not be paid at the SFSP reimbursement rates. For school year 2021-2022, FNS establishes the payment rates for SSO meals and snacks at the level of reimbursement paid for SFSP meals and snacks, in accordance with the provisions of 42 USC 1761(b)(1)(A) and (B) of the National School Lunch Act. This waiver is effective July 1, 2021, and remains in effect through June 30, 2022.

Consistent with Section 2202(a)(2) of the FFCRA, this waiver applies automatically to all states that elect to use it, without further application. State agencies must elect to be subject to this waiver in order to use it. State agencies must inform their FNS regional office if they elect to be subject to the waiver. If the state agency elects to implement this waiver, it must notify its respective FNS regional office, which will acknowledge receipt. State agencies should inform school food authorities of the flexibilities provided by this waiver as quickly as possible,1 and work in partnership with school food authorities to provide meals to all participants in a safe and accessible manner.

As required by Section 2202(d) of the FFCRA, 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 elected to receive the waiver.2 The report must include:

  • A summary of the use of this waiver by the state agency and school food authorities, and
  • A description of whether and how this waiver resulted in improved services to program participants.

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.

Jessica Saracino
Acting Director
Program Monitoring and Operational Support Division

04/20/2021

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.