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School Meals Programs Comparison Table of Flexibilities for School Year 2021-22 and School Year 2022-23

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USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) is offering this comparison table to assist state agencies and program operators as they transition from school year (SY) 2021-22 operations under COVID-19 nationwide waivers and flexibilities to operations designed around their own unique circumstances for SY 2022-23. This at-a-glance comparison chart provides an overview of how specific program flexibilities have changed since SY 2021-22, and what flexibilities are available for the upcoming school year to support program operations.

For SY 2022-23, FNS has made many options available to state agencies to assist with the transition back to normal operations. The vast majority of these are available through submission of individual waivers requests1 authorized under Section 12(l) of the National School Lunch Act (NSLA). For most of the Section 12(l) waivers, FNS expects that program operators will use the waivers only when congregate meal service is limited by conditions related to the COVID-19 pandemic during SY 2022-23. Local program operators, in collaboration with their state agencies, are best positioned to determine the extent to which these waivers are needed. Specific information for each waiver flexibility is provided in the table below.

Election of nationwide waivers and requests for 12(l) waivers were at the discretion of state agencies. To find information on what waivers state agencies have been approved for, please see: Child Nutrition COVID-19 Waivers. General information about the reporting requirements for the 12(l) waivers was included in the waiver approval letters; additional information from FNS is forthcoming.

Topic Options Previously Available under COVID-19 Nationwide Waivers during SY 2021-22 Options Available for SY 2022-23 Operations
Certification
Household Income Applications Nationwide Waiver to Allow the Seamless Summer Option through SY 2021-2022 allowed school food authorities (SFAs) to participate in the NSLP Seamless Summer Option (SSO) during the regular school year. SSO participation eliminated the need to determine eligibility and enabled schools to provide free meals to all children. SSO operations during the school year will no longer be available except during an unanticipated school closure2. Schools must return to standard NSLP and SBP operations. For schools not operating under a special provision (such as the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) or provision 2), schools will be required to determine student eligibility through household applications and direct certification, and to return to counting and claiming meals by type (free, reduced price, or paid). Schools operating under a special provision will return to following the requirements of that provision.

 

Eligibility Carryover3 Schools that implemented SSO during SY 2021-22 under the Nationwide Waiver to Allow the Seamless Summer Option through SY 2021-22 were able to provide free meals to all students. Carryover of a student’s eligibility status was not needed. States may request an individual 12(l) waiver to allow schools that implemented SSO during SY 2021-22 to use the most recent eligibility data (since SY 2019-20) to establish student eligibility for the first 30 operating days of SY 2022-23, or until a new eligibility determination is made, whichever comes first. The 12(l) waiver is effective for the 30-day carryover period during SY 2022-23.

Community Eligibility Provision (CEP)

Nationwide Waiver of Community Eligibility Provision Deadlines in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs adjusted annual CEP deadlines, allowing additional time to gather accurate identified student data and prepare for CEP election.
CEP Deadlines
Requirement Annual Waiver
Data for ISP April 1

Anytime July 1, 2021 to
June 30, 2022

LEA Notification April 15 June 30, 2022

State Agency
Notification

April 15 June 30, 2022

State Agency
Publication

May 1 June 30, 2022

Elect CEP for
2022-23

June 30

Sept. 30, 2022

States could request an individual 12(l) waiver to extend any, or all, of the CEP deadlines provided under the nationwide waiver authority to the dates identified in the “waiver” column above.

Afterschool Snack Service (NSLP Snack) Nationwide Waiver of Area Eligibility in the Afterschool Programs and for Family Day Care Home Providers in SY 2021-22 allowed schools, regardless of their location, to claim all afterschool snacks at the free rate.4 Area eligible schools may serve and claim all snacks at the free rate. Schools are “area eligible” if at least 50 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price meals. Other schools participating in NSLP afterschool snacks may serve and claim snacks by type (free, reduced price, or paid).
Meal Service

The following waivers are intended to provide needed flexibility to support SFAs in SY 2022-23. FNS expects that flexibilities under the Section 12(l) waivers in the SY 2022-23 column of this section will only be implemented by program operators when congregate meal service is limited by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Non-congregate Nationwide Waiver to Allow Non-Congregate Meal Service for School Year 2021-22 allowed non-congregate meal service for NSLP, SBP, and SSO, allowing children to eat meals outside of school settings. NSLP and SBP congregate meal service is required (children must be served and eat each meal at school).

States may request an individual 12(l) waiver of NSLP and SBP congregate meal service requirements for SY 2022-23 to facilitate socially distant, grab-and-go meals.

 

 

Meal Times Nationwide Waiver of Meal Times Requirements for School Year 2021-22 waived federal meal time requirements for NSLP, SBP, and SSO meals served at school during SY 2021-22, supporting a socially distant meal service options. NSLP and SBP meals must follow meal service time requirements.

States may request an individual 12(l) waiver of the meal times requirements for NSLP and SBP for SY 2022-23 operations to facilitate socially distant, grab-and-go meals.

 

 

Parent/Guardian Pick-Up Nationwide Waiver to Allow Parents and Guardians to Pick Up Meals for Children for SY 2021-22 allowed parents/guardians to pick up school meals on behalf of their children to take home. Meals must be served directly to eligible children.

States may request an individual 12(l) waiver to allow parents/guardians to pick up meals on their child’s behalf during SY 2022-23 to facilitate socially distant, grab-and-go meals.

 

Offer Versus Serve Nationwide Waiver to Allow Offer Versus Serve Flexibility for Senior High Schools in School Year 2021-22 waived the requirement for senior high schools to use Offer Versus Serve at lunch. Local operators of senior high schools (as defined by the state education agency) must use Offer Versus Serve at lunch.

States may request an individual 12(l) waiver for the requirement that senior high schools must use Offer Versus Serve at lunch.
Parent/Guardian Pick Up for the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP) Nationwide waiver authority was not applicable to FFVP. Therefore, to allow a parent/guardian to pick up FFVP foods to take home to children during SY 2021-22, interested state agencies requested individual 12(l) FFVP parent pickup waivers. FFVP elementary schools must serve FFVP foods directly to eligible children.

States may request an individual 12(l) waiver to allow parents/guardians to pick up FFVP foods on behalf of eligible children during SY 2022-23 to facilitate socially distant, grab-and-go FFVP service.
FFVP Service at Alternate Sites Nationwide waiver authority was not applicable to FFVP. During SY 2021-22, interested state agencies requested individual 12(l) FFVP alternate site waivers to allow alternative sites to serve FFVP foods from elementary schools operating during school building closures. Standard FFVP operations limit FFVP to approved elementary schools. In SY 2022-23, FFVP operators must limit the availability of FFVP foods to approved elementary schools.

States may request an individual 12(l) waiver to allow FFVP elementary schools to offer FFVP foods at alternate sites if an FFVP elementary school building is closed during SY 2022-23.
Non-congregate for the Special Milk Program (SMP) Nationwide waiver authority was not applicable to SMP. Therefore, interested state agencies requested individual 12(l) SMP non-congregate waivers to allow SMP milk to be served in non-congregate settings. SMP operators must serve SMP milk in a congregate setting.

States may request an individual 12(l) waiver to allow SMP milks to be served in a non-congregate setting to facilitate socially distant, grab-and-go SMP service.
Parent/Guardian Pickup for the SMP Nationwide waiver authority was not applicable to SMP. Therefore, interested state agencies requested individual 12(l) SMP parent pickup waivers, in conjunction with an individual 12(l) non-congregate waiver, to allow schools to distribute milk to a parent or guardian to take home to their children. SMP operators must serve SMP milk directly to eligible children.

States with SMP operators may request an individual 12(l) waiver to allow schools to distribute milk to a parent or guardian to take home to their children to facilitate socially distant, grab-and-go SMP service.
Meal Claiming & Reimbursements
Reimbursement Rates Nationwide Waiver to Allow Summer Food Service Program Reimbursement Rates in SY 2021-22 established the reimbursement rates for SSO meals and snacks at the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) reimbursement rates. In SY 2022-23 schools will receive standard NSLP/SBP reimbursement rates for school meals and snacks. For this school year, the standard rates will include an additional 40 cents per school lunch and 15 cents per school breakfast, as authorized by the Keep Kids Fed Act. For schools offering afterschool meals or snacks through the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), the standard rates will include an additional 10 cents per CACFP meal or snack in SY 2022-23.

 

Severe Need and Two Cent Differential Schools that operated NSLP during SY 2021-22 had second prior year data available to determine eligibility for severe need and two-cent differential. Therefore, waiver flexibilities to establish severe need reimbursement rates for SBP breakfasts and two cent differential reimbursement for NSLP were not issued. Schools that do not have free or reduced price NSLP participation data from the second preceding year due to participation in the nationwide waivers must use the options provided in Determining Eligibility for Severe Need Reimbursement for the SBP and the Two Cent Differential Reimbursement for the NSLP in SY 2022-23 and 2023-24, issued June 15, 2022.
Meal Pattern
Meal Pattern Standards Nationwide Waiver to Allow Specific School Meal Pattern Flexibility for School Year 2021-22 allowed states agencies to approve the use of specific meal pattern flexibilities for program operators to serve school meals that did not meet meal pattern requirements, when needed. Meals must meet meal pattern requirements as specified under program regulations. (See fiscal action section below.)
Fiscal Action due to Supply Chain Challenges Nationwide Waiver to Allow Fiscal Action Flexibility for Meal Pattern Violations Related to COVID-19 Supply Chain Disruptions Impacting School Meals in SY 2021-22 provided state agencies with the discretion to not apply fiscal action for missing food components or missing production records and for repeated violations involving milk type and vegetable subgroups when there is a supply chain disruption due to COVID–19. States may opt into the Nationwide Waiver to Allow Fiscal Action Flexibility for Meal Pattern Violations Related to COVID-19 Supply Chain Disruptions Impacting School Meals-Extension. This nationwide waiver provides state agencies with the discretion to not apply fiscal action for missing food components or missing production records and for repeated violations involving milk type and vegetable subgroups when there is a supply chain disruption due to COVID–19.
Reporting
Reporting Requirement for Second Review of Applications Nationwide Waiver for Selected Child Nutrition Program Reporting Requirements waived reporting requirements for the FNS-874, a state-level report describing the results of the second independent review of eligibility determinations conducted by applicable local educational agencies in a state. State agencies must submit an FNS-874, Second Review of Applications Report, by March 15, 2023.

States may request an individual 12(l) waiver for the requirement to submit the FNS-874 report.
Reporting Requirement for Administrative Review Data Nationwide Waiver for Selected Child Nutrition Program Reporting Requirements waived reporting requirements for the FNS-640, a state-level report containing the results of the reviews conducted in the preceding school year. This report is due March 1st of each year. State agencies must submit an FNS-640, Administrative Review Data Report March 1, 2023.

States may request an individual 12(l) waiver for the requirement to submit the FNS-640 report.
Monitoring and Program Administration
Onsite Reviews Nationwide Waiver of Onsite Monitoring Requirements in the School Meal Programs - Revised – Extension 3 allowed SFAs and state agencies to complete required monitoring offsite until 30 days after the Public Health Emergency ends and provided the flexibility to complete the onsite portion of the administrative review outside of the school year in which the review began.
The Public Health Emergency was recently extended through October 13, 2022 and the nationwide waiver will remain in effect until 30 days after the Public Health Emergency expires.
In line with program regulations some aspects of the school meal program administrative review must occur onsite. In addition, the onsite portion of the administrative review must be completed the same school year the review began.

SFAs with more than one school must also conduct one onsite review of a school annually prior to February 1.

States may request a 12(l) waiver of these requirements for both the state agency and SFAs. This waiver would allow for the continuation of offsite monitoring and review completion flexibilities even after the expiration of the nationwide waiver.
Review of SSO during the School Year Nationwide Waiver to Provide Flexibility for School Meal Programs Administrative Reviews of SFAs Operating Only the SSO in SY 2021-22 allowed state agencies to review SSO sites during the school year when the SFA was only operating SSO.

This allowed for comprehensive administrative reviews to take place when only SSO was operated.
Program regulations require that one site from an SFA operating SSO must be reviewed the summer before or the summer after an administrative review is scheduled.

Since SFAs will only be operating SSO during standard SSO time frames, state agencies will no longer need this waiver.

 

Food Service Management Company Contracts Nationwide Waiver of Food Service Management Contract Duration in the NSLP and SFSP Extension, allowed program operators to extend existing food service management company contracts that would not have otherwise been eligible for an extension. Under program regulations, food service management company contracts must be for a duration of no longer than one year with the option for yearly extensions of a contract that does not exceed four additional years.

States may request an individual 12(l) waiver to allow operators to extend existing food service management company contracts that would not otherwise be eligible for an extension, through June 30, 2023.
Local School Wellness Policy Triennial Assessments for NSLP and SBP Nationwide Waiver of Local School Wellness Policy Triennial Assessments in the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program provided a new first triennial assessment deadline of June 30, 2022.

LEAs that were required to complete a triennial assessment of their local school wellness policy by June 30, 2021 were able to accept the new deadline and complete their first assessment by June 30, 2022.
NSLP and SBP operators must complete a triennial assessment of their local school wellness policy in accordance with program requirements or the previously extended deadlines provided via nationwide waiver authorities.

States may request an individual 12(l) waiver to allow LEAs to complete their first triennial assessment by June 30, 2023.
Paid Lunch Equity (PLE) Because SFAs had the option to serve all lunches for free in SY 2020-21 and 2021-22, nationwide flexibility for PLE was not needed. SFAs are required to establish a price for paid lunches that must be greater or equal to the difference between the free and paid reimbursement rates.

States may request a 12(l) waiver of the PLE requirement. This would result in schools not being required to raise paid lunch prices in SY 2022-23.

 


1 An individual 12(l) waiver is an approved waiver request submitted by an individual State agency through the process outlined in Section 12(l) of the National School Lunch Act and FNS policy guidance, Child Nutrition Program Waiver Request Guidance and Protocol – Revised, memo code SP15 CACFP12 SFSP05-2018, available at: https://www.fns.usda.gov/cn/waiver-request-guidance-and-protocol-revised. An individual 12(l) waiver may be approved for a State agency or an eligible service provider.
2 See Meal Service During Unanticipated School Closures, memo code SP04 CACFP03 SFSP03-2020, available at: https://www.fns.usda.gov/cn/meal-service-during-unanticipated-school-closures.
3 The NSLA permits students’ eligibility from the preceding school year to “carryover” into the first 30 operating days of a new school year, or until a new eligibility determination is made (whichever comes first). This ensures that children receive meals while schools process applications for the new school year.
4 Although the Nationwide Waiver of Area Eligibility has expired, recent action by Congress supports out-of-school-time care for children. For SY 2022-23, the Keep Kids Fed Act provides all Child and Adult Care Food Program family day care homes with the higher “Tier 1” reimbursement rate.

08/01/2022