Child Nutrition Policy Guidance - Covid-19

Through a waiver from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Maine Department of Education has extended USDA’s Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) allowing school districts and community partners to provide meals to students during extended remote learning due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Through the SFSP, nearly 185 district and community partners are preparing and providing meals and food for children. School districts and communities statewide are implementing many different methods to ensure every child (ages 0 – 18) in need of food is nourished during this time of remote learning. These include approved locations for meal pick-up, utilizing bus routes to deliver meals, and providing baskets of food to families.

Many school districts that are ineligible (do not meet the 50% or more students receiving free or reduced lunch threshold) to participate in a SFSP have successfully partnered with regional school districts and community organizations to serve food to children. The interactive map will be updated daily.  The interactive map of schools providing meals can be viewed here.  

On Friday, March 20, 2020, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has provided several updates related to the current requirements for the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). The Maine DOE’s Child Nutrition Director, Walter Beesley facilitated a webinar on Monday, March 23rd to provide an overview of all recent updates. The recorded webinar is available here.

Summer Food Service Program

There are currently 151 SFSPs serving meals to children statewide. The SFSP model allows every child under the age of 18 to receive a meal. The data entry requirements for SFSP include tracking delivery times, number of meals served, number of days serving meals, and the month in which you’re currently serving meals (which is month 13, given our state of a civil emergency). All required data entry for the SFSP meal claims form is included within NEO. The accuracy of this form is vital to receiving precise reimbursements. If your current site sheet requires an updated, please reach out to Nancy at 207-624- 6877. USDA food may be used to support a SFSP.  The Department suggests that you keep documentation for the usage of any USDA food. Sites providing meals over the weekend are permitted to serve three meals to all children on Friday to ensure children are provided nourishment throughout the weekend. Multiple days of meals up to 3 can be disbursed during the week to provide a time for staff to relax. 

National School Lunch Service Program

The Department has received three additional waivers from the USDA on Friday, March 20, 2020. The waivers include the following allowances:

  1. Schools and child care centers may serve food in a non-group setting.
  2. Meal service times are no longer restricted. Both lunch and breakfast may be served during a single time of day.
  3. The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) afternoon snack and Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) are no longer required to provide enrichment programming to serve food.

As a result of the waivers received to date, districts and schools are now able to operate the National School Lunch Program during school closures. This means that districts with 50% or less poverty levels may now serve students and received reimbursement. Under the NSLP, both breakfast and lunch can be served in the form of providing meals in front of school buildings, using a mobile unit to deliver food, and/or providing home delivery. The data entry requirements for the NSLP include tracking which students received meals. Given the new flexibilities provided to Maine by the latest round of waivers, you are likely considering which program will better serve your community. The Department has provided a chart to outline the possibilities presented by each program. The chart can be found here. Presently, the Department is not encouraging districts that are currently operating SFSPs to revert to NSLPs. It is possible for a district to operate both programs simultaneously across the district. Moreover, a district may use NSLP to provide breakfast and lunch and SFSP to provide snacks and dinner.