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A School Food Authority’s Guide to School Meals: Flexibilities in Practice

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While many schools will return to their regular cafeteria meal service this year, schools will need to be prepared for many contingencies. The Food and Nutrition Service encourages schools to have plans in place to ensure students have access to school meals no matter what this school year may bring. Below are examples of situations schools might face and possible solutions.

Back to School In-Person

In September 2021, your school re-opens with 100 percent in-person learning.

  1. All students receive free meals through the Seamless Summer Option of the National School Lunch Program.
  2. Your school receives the Summer Food Service Program reimbursement rates for all meals served.
  3. Meals are served directly to students in a congregate setting in the cafeteria during regular meal times.
  4. Your school participates under the area eligibility nationwide waiver, and offers children afterschool suppers through the Child and Adult Care Food Program along with an enrichment activity every school day.
  5. The school begins the year with no meal pattern flexibilities in place.
Supply Chain Disruptions Occur

In November 2021, due to supply chain disruptions associated with COVID-19, your school is unable to procure the items needed to meet the vegetable subgroup requirements.

Solutions:

  1. Your school attempts an emergency procurement, but is unable to find an appropriate replacement.
  2. The school food authority submits a request for targeted meal pattern flexibility for the vegetable subgroup requirements.
  3. The state agency determines the waiver is targeted and justified, and approves the waiver request.
  4. Your school continues to meet the vegetable subgroup requirements to the greatest extent possible, but uses the flexibility as needed.
Temporary Return to Hybrid Learning

In December 2021, your school temporarily transitions to a hybrid learning model due to concerns in the community about an increase in COVID-19 cases.

Solutions:

  1. For in-person learners, your school serves meals directly to students in a congregate setting in classrooms during regular meal times.
  2. For virtual learners, your school uses the non-congregate, meal times, and parent/guardian pick-up flexibilities to ensure children continue to have access to meals while learning at home.
  3. Your school continues to offer afterschool suppers to in-person and virtual learners; children learning virtually receive a virtual enrichment activity along with their grab-and-go supper.
  4. The school food authority submits a request to the state agency for targeted meal pattern flexibility for the requirement to offer a variety of fluid milk with meals, to facilitate the service of grab-and-go meals for virtual learners.
  5. The state agency determines the waiver is targeted and justified, and approves the waiver request.
  6. Your school continues to offer a variety of fluid milk to children who receive meals in the classroom at school.
  7. Your school may be asked to provide the state with student-level or school-level virtual learning information to support the distribution of P-EBT benefits to eligible children.
Return to In-Person Learning

In January 2022, your school returns to in-person learning for all students:

  1. All meals are served directly to students in a congregate setting in the cafeteria during regular meal times.
  2. Your school no longer needs to use its two meal pattern flexibilities, since the supply chain has improved and all children are eating meals in the cafeteria.
  3. Your school continues to use the area eligibility waiver to provide afterschool meals to children, through the last day of school.
08/06/2021