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School Meals Operations Study: Evaluation of the COVID-19 Child Nutrition Waivers and Child Nutrition Programs

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This notice invites the general public and other public agencies to comment on this proposed information collection. This collection is a revision of a currently approved collection for the School Meals Operations (SMO) study (OMB control number 0584-0607, expiration date 08/31/2022) with updated survey instruments for school year (SY) 2021-2022. This study will collect data from state agencies and public school food authorities (SFAs), including disaggregated administrative data and data on the continued use and effectiveness of the CN COVID-19 waivers.

Supplementary Information

FNS administers the school-based Child Nutrition (CN) programs (i.e., the school meal programs) in partnership with states and local SFAs. Section 28(a) of the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act authorizes the U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary to conduct annual national performance assessments of the school meal programs. FNS plans to conduct this annual assessment through the School Meals Operations (SMO) study in SY 2021-2022. FNS will also use the SMO study to fulfill states' reporting requirements on the nationwide waivers approved by FNS pursuant to section 2202 of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) (PL 116-127). This notice covers the second iteration of the SMO study, which will collect data from state and local agencies on the CN COVID-19 waivers as well as data on state and local CN program operations during SYs 2020-2021 and 2021-2022. Participation in the SMO study will fulfill states' statutory reporting requirements for the CN COVID-19 nationwide waivers used in fiscal year (FY) 21 and FY 22, which correspond roughly to SYs 2020-21 and 2021-22, respectively.

The SMO study is a revision of the previously approved Child Nutrition Program Operations Study II (CN-OPS II, OMB control number 0584-0607). It is designed to collect timely data on policy, administrative, and operational issues in the school-based CN programs, which contributes to budget preparation, development and implementation of program policy and regulations, and identification of areas for technical assistance and training. Because the COVID-19 pandemic changed the way that school meal programs operated for SY 2020-2021, with other CN programs such as the Child and Adult Care Food Program and the Summer Food Service Program being used in place of or in combination with the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs (NSLP and SBP) to provide meals to students, the SMO study will collect administrative and web survey data from states on each of these programs. Specifically, this study will help FNS obtain:

  1. General descriptive data on the characteristics of CN programs to inform the budget process and answer questions about topics of current policy interest;

  2. Data on program operations to identify potential topics for training and technical assistance for SFAs and state Agencies (SAs) responsible for administering the CN programs;

  3. Administrative data to identify program trends and predictors;

  4. Information on the use and effectiveness of the CN COVID-19 waivers, which will be used to satisfy states' reporting requirements on these waivers under FFCRA.

04/21/2021