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Operation of Child Nutrition Programs During a Pandemic

EO Guidance Document #
FNS Document #
SP13 CACFP06 SFSP08-2007
Resource type
Policy Memos
Guidance Documents
Resource Materials
PDF Icon Policy Memo (60.74 KB)
DATE: June 11, 2007
SUBJECT: Operation of Child Nutrition Programs during a Pandemic
TO: State Agencies
Child Nutrition Programs
All States
Regional Directors
Special Nutrition Programs
All Regions

As a result of the activities being taken to plan a government-wide response to a potential outbreak of pandemic disease, we have received questions regarding the child nutrition programs operation during such an event.

The child nutrition programs are designed to support institutional feeding operations. The authorizing statutes assume that programs will operate in a congregate setting, whether in schools or child care facilities. During the outbreak of pandemic disease, public health officials anticipate the need for “social distancing” as a means of minimizing the spread of illness by limiting person-to-person contact. Thus, when social distancing measures are in effect, schools and other facilities may be closed, and operation of the child nutrition programs will probably not be possible.

School facilities and equipment normally used in the operation of the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) or the School Breakfast Program (SBP) may be used for other activities during a pandemic outbreak. In addition, in a Presidentially-declared disaster, program commodities and other foods would be available for distribution to community groups or public agencies. However, although school facilities or commodities could be used, their use would not be related to the NSLP or SBP.

Finally, depending on the nature and scope of the outbreak, the agency may waive some program requirements in areas adjacent to, but not directly affected by, a pandemic outbreak. Provisions relating to operational procedures, review requirements, or meal patterns have been waived, either on a short-term or a longer-term basis, in previous disasters. The usefulness and applicability of such waivers during a pandemic would, of course, be dependent on the scope of the outbreak and the limitations on person-to-person contact in any given area.

Please contact my office if you have any further questions concerning the possible operation of child nutrition programs during the outbreak of pandemic disease.

Child Nutrition Division

Page updated: January 11, 2023

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.