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Water Availability During NSLP Meal Service

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FNS Document #
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Policy Memos
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PDF Icon Policy Memo (94.71 KB)
DATE:July 12, 2011
POLICY MEMO:SP 28- 2011 - Revised
SUBJECT:Child Nutrition Reauthorization 2010: Water Availability During National School Lunch Program Meal Service
TO:Special Nutrition Programs
Regional Directors
All Regions
State Directors
Child Nutrition Programs
All States

This memorandum provides questions and answers to update the Child Nutrition Reauthorization 2010 implementation memorandum SP 28-2011, Water Availability During National School Lunch Program Meal Service. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (the Act), PL 111-296, establishes a requirement for making water available to children in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). The purpose of this memorandum is to provide guidance on the implementation of this provision.

Section 203 of the Act amends section 9(a) of the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act (42 USC (1758(a)) by requiring that schools participating in the NSLP make potable water available to children at no charge in the place where lunch meals are served during the meal service. There are a variety of ways that schools can implement this requirement. For example, schools can offer water pitchers and cups on lunch tables, a water fountain, or a faucet that allows students to fill their own bottles or cups with drinking water. Whatever solution is chosen, the water must be available without restriction in the location where meals are served. Schools should be working toward developing a reasonable method to implement this requirement.

While potable water is required to be made available to students, it is not considered part of the reimbursable meal and students are not required to take water. There is no separate funding available for this provision and reimbursement may not be claimed. However, reasonable costs associated with providing potable water would be an allowable cost to the non-profit food service account.

We understand that some food service areas and/or procedures may require significant changes to properly incorporate this provision. We also recognize the range of complexities that may be involved in a school’s ability to implement this provision. Therefore, we encourage schools to comply with this requirement as soon as possible, but not later than the beginning of School Year 2011-12.

The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) plans to issue a proposed rule regarding water availability in conjunction with the proposed nutrition standards for all foods sold in schools. FNS has issued separate guidance to implement a similar provision in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP 20-2011, 5/11/2011).

State agencies should direct any questions concerning this guidance to the appropriate FNS regional office. Regional Offices with questions should contact the child nutrition division.

Cynthia Long
Child Nutrition Division


Page updated: January 11, 2024

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.