|DATE:||June 11, 2021|
|MEMO CODE:||COVID–19: Child Nutrition Response #98|
|SUBJECT:||Nationwide Waiver of Local School Wellness Policy Triennial Assessments in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs|
Special Nutrition Programs
Child Nutrition Programs
Pursuant to 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 based on the exceptional circumstances of this public health emergency related to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) is establishing a nationwide waiver to support schools unable to complete a triennial assessment of the local school wellness policies by June 30, 2021, due to school closures as a result of COVID–19. This waiver applies to state agencies that have local educational agencies (LEAs) administering the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and/or School Breakfast Program (SBP).1
Based on the July 1, 2017, implementation of the local school wellness policy regulations, the first triennial assessments were due June 30, 2020. On April 2, 2020, FNS issued a nationwide waiver delaying the deadline for the first triennial assessment to June 30, 2021 (see Nationwide Waiver of Local School Wellness Policy Triennial Assessments in the NSLP and SBP at https://www.fns.usda.gov/cn/nationwide-waiver-local-school-wellness-policy-triennial-assessments-nlsp-sbp). FNS recognizes that in this public health emergency, alternate feeding operations are demanding state and local program operators to continue to devote additional resources and time to ensure meals are served to children in a safe manner. Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the resources required to meet the upcoming Local School Wellness Policy triennial assessment deadlines are better spent on addressing the service of safe meals to children.
Section 2202(a) of the FFCRA permits the Secretary of Agriculture to establish a waiver for all states for the purpose of providing meals under the child nutrition programs, with appropriate safety measures, as determined by the Secretary.
Section 9A(b) of the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act (NSLA) (42 USC 1758b(b)) establishes requirements for local school wellness policies related to implementation, evaluation, and publicly reporting on progress of local school wellness policies. FNS regulations further require at 7 CFR 210.31(e)(2) that, at least once every three years, LEAs assess compliance with the local school wellness policy, and make assessment results available to the public.
Therefore, based on this public health emergency, pursuant to the FFCRA authority cited above, FNS waives, for each state that elects to be subject to it, the above referenced statutory and regulatory requirements and provides a new first triennial assessment deadline of June 30, 2022. Accordingly, LEAs required to complete a triennial assessment by June 30, 2021, may choose to accept the new regulatory deadline and instead complete their first assessment by June 30, 2022. These LEAs then would complete a second triennial assessment by June 30, 2025. FNS recognizes that some LEAs may be prepared to complete their triennial assessment by June 30, 2021, and encourages those that are prepared to do so to complete their assessments on time.
Consistent with section 2202(a)(2) of the FFCRA, this waiver applies automatically to all states that elect to use it, without further application. If the state agency elects to implement these flexibilities, it must notify its respective FNS regional office, which will acknowledge receipt. State agencies should inform LEAs of the flexibilities provided by this waiver as quickly as possible. LEAs wishing to accept a new deadline must inform the state agency by June 30, 2021.
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. In order to use this waiver, local program operators must be prepared to provide the state agency with any necessary information to complete the reporting requirements. The report must include:
- A summary of the use of this waiver by the state agency and LEAs, 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.
Angela M. Kline
Policy and Program Development Division