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Back to School Planning
Whether you have decided to implement NSLP/SBP or SSO this fall at your school(s), this School Year 21-22 FAQ (PDF) document provides answers to many questions that have been posed for both scenarios.
Do you have a question that wasn’t covered in the FAQs? Please use this form to submit questions to the CDE School Nutrition staff.
On April 20, the USDA released a series of nationwide waivers that allow flexibility to school meal programs for the 2021-22 school year. School Nutrition has opted into all waivers for the state of Colorado:
- School Food Authorities (SFAs) have the option to participate in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) or the Seamless Summer Option (SSO) in school year 2021-22.
- SFAs that opt to participate in SSO can provide free meals to all students at any school site. Meals served under the SSO will be reimbursed at the higher Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) rate.
- SFAs that opt to participate in the NSLP and School Breakfast Program (SBP) will charge students for meals based on student eligibility. Meals served under the NSLP or SBP will be reimbursed at the applicable lower NSLP and SBP rates.
- Additional waivers allow schools to utilize meal distribution methods that work best for their students such as, home delivery, multiple meal distribution, bulk meals, and parent-pick up.
- Sponsors that are unable to meet the meal pattern requirements can request a meal pattern waiver through CDE School Nutrition.
- All schools, regardless of their location, can provide and claim all afterschool snacks at the higher free reimbursement rate.
Request a Waiver:
- The USDA approved Colorado’s waiver to allow the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program to operate at an alternate location if the approved location is closed as long as accountability and integrity of the program are maintained. Sponsors must apply via the alternate site location waiver request form to use this waiver. The alternate location waiver is valid through the end of School Year 2021-22.
- USDA is allowing targeted meal pattern flexibilities for the following: whole grain-rich requirements; vegetable subgroup requirements; milk variety requirements; low-fat flavored milk; and age/grade group requirements. Sponsors may apply for these flexibilities using the Meal Pattern Waiver Request form.
2021-22 School Nutrition Guidance
Sponsors can choose to operate the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs or the Seamless Summer Option during the 2021-22 school year:
- SSO: Sponsors operating SSO can view detailed application instructions and a screen recording on how to complete the application under the SSO section on the How to Apply webpage.
- NSLP/SBP: Sponsors operating NSLP and SBP can view detailed application instructions under the NSLP/SBP section on the How to Apply webpage.
Resources for Child Nutrition Operators
- Existing Waivers for 2021-22
- Supply Chain Considerations for 2021-22 (PDF)
- Procurement Considerations for 2020-21 (PDF)
- Noncompetitive Procurement Guidance (PDF)
- School Nutrition Association's Supply Chain Resources
- USDA's Planning for a Dynamic School Environment
- No Kid Hungry's Tips for Navigating Supply Chain Disruptions (PDF)
- State Price Agreements Access Instructions (PDF)
- The state maintains pricing agreements with vendors for a variety of commonly sourced items. There are price agreements in place for items such as cups, utencils, plates, and paper products.
- USDA's Procurement Strategies in the 2021-22 school year
- Institute of Child Nutrition's Leveraging USDA Foods to Alleviage Food Supply Shortages on Thursday, Nov. 4.
- Institute of Child Nutrition's November STAR Webinar: Highlighting School Nutrition Heroes + Culinary and Partnership to Supply Chain Challenges
- Using American Rescue Plan Funds and Other Federal Supports to Address State and Local Staff Labor Shortages
- November On the Menu Webinar Recording
Be COVID-19 Safe
Your local public health agency (LPHA) is the ultimate authority on food safety related questions. A plan for providing meals to students will be school district and, in some cases, building centric. For state-level guidance, consult Troy Huffman at 303-692-3664.
Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment resources:
- Employee Health Screening Form
- Guidance for Wearing Masks
- Cleaning Guidance including Specific Recommendations for Schools
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention resources:
- Guidance for COVID-19 Prevention in K-12 Schools (Food Service and School Meals section)
- COVID-19 Guidance for Operating Early Care and Education/Child Care Programs (Food Service and Meals section)
Develop a staffing plan in case employees contract COVID-19. Back-up staffing plan considerations include identifying staff that are part of a high-risk group, providing cross-training and identifying back-ups, breaking up staff in teams to limit exposure, etc.
Staffing plan resources:
- Wisconsin Interim COVID-19 Cafeterias and Food Service Guidance (PDF)
- SNA COVID-19 Thought Starters on Reopening Schools (PDF)
If staff contract COVID-19: School Closure Flow Chart (PDF)
NSLP/SBP: sponsors must still provide, collect, and determine eligibility using school meal applications. Meals are reimbursed by student eligibility status at the established NSLP/SBP rates.
SSO: sponsors may collect and process school meal applications to establish eligibility for Pandemic-EBT only. All students may receive a free meal at any school site, regardless of area eligibility. Meals served under the SSO will be reimbursed at the Summer Food Service Program rural/self-prep rate.
NSLP/SBP/SSO: All disclosure requirements for release of student eligibility for non-P-EBT or non-program needs will apply. The 2021-22 free and reduced-price school meal application and supporting materials are now available and located on the School Meal Eligibility webpage. Public school districts operating NSLP or SSO must still report free and reduced-price eligibility totals for the annual At-Risk/Free Lunch October Count.
Best practices to encourage families to provide household income information:
- Provide consistent and clear communication on how families can apply
- Promote online application as a component in online registration
- Mail paper applications with pre-paid return envelopes or designate a drop-off point
- Hold office hours for application assistance
- Directly certify and extend eligibility to the greatest extent possible
- Attach application and returning instruction to grab-n-go meals
- Use marketing materials to incentivize applying
School Year 2021-22 Outreach Materials
- 3 Reasons to provide household income information
- Handout (PDF) English, Spanish: distribute this handout to families with back to school materials and through your district's communication channels
- Facebook post (PNG) English, Spanish: this post can be used alongside your district's specific information on how families can apply and who to contact
- Instagram post (PNG) English, Spanish: these images can be posted as a series so families can swipe to see benefits of providing income information
Pandemic-Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT)
For more information on P-EBT and district templates and resources, visit the School Meal Eligibility webpage.
School year 2021-22 administrative reviews will take place virtually and School Nutrition staff will not observe meal service on site. Reviews will continue to assess compliance with program operations including current waivers and flexibilities in place for the Seamless
Summer Option and/or National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. Additionally, procurement reviews will not take place this year (except for FSMCs) and will be assessed another school year.
View the review schedule (PDF) for this school year along with the five-year review and technical assistance cycle (PDF). For more information, visit the administrative review webpage. For questions, contact your School Nutrition point person, who is also your reviewer.
NSLP/SBP: Sponsors must follow the counting and claiming procedures under the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP). Eligible meals for reimbursement must meet the NSLP and SBP meal pattern and be a reimbursable meal. Additionally, meals must be tracked by student and their associated free, reduced-price or paid eligibility status. All meals will be submitted for reimbursement within the Colorado Nutrition Portal.
SSO: Under the SSO, all reimbursable meals served are free. Sponsors must establish a point of service and record meals as they are served. Sponsors may use the Daily Meal Count Form or their electronic point of service system to record meals by meal type each serving day at each meal site. All meals will be submitted for reimbursement within the Colorado Nutrition Portal.
- Seamless Summer Option (SSO) Claiming Instructions (PDF)
- SFSP Reimbursement Rates (PDF)
- NSLP/SBP Reimbursement Rates (PDF)
- Grant Codes (PDF)
- Financial Management Resource (PDF)
Planning for meal service:
- Communicate to students, parents, and school administrators about how and where meals will be distributed
- Decide if additional equipment is needed to serve food safely or if equipment can be repurposed
- Assess the packaging and disposable products needed for meal service
- Reconfigure serving lines to allow for more physical distancing if meals are served in the cafeteria
- Review staffing capacity to distribute meals and cover potentially extended mealtimes
- Train teachers how to record reimbursable meals if serving in the classroom
- Provide civil rights training to teachers if meals are served in the classroom
- Coordinate with other departments, such as maintenance or transportation
- School Meal Pickup Signage - English (DOC)
- School Meal Pickup Signage - Spanish (DOC)
- No Kid Hungry Equipment Tips for Serving Meals in the Classroom (PDF)
- SNA Dining Guide for Meals in the Classroom contains marketing materials and communication strategies to easily communicate district procedures for serving meals in the classroom to key stakeholders.
Planning the menu:
- Determine which menu items fit staffing capacity and planned meal service model(s)
- Consider creating a two-week cycle menu with the top 10 entrées
- Determine if Offer versus Serve will be used
- Develop a plan to accommodate students with special dietary needs
Meal Pattern Exemption Waiver:
USDA is allowing targeted meal pattern flexibilities for the following: whole grain-rich requirements; vegetable subgroup requirements; milk variety requirements; low-fat flavored milk; and age/grade group requirements. USDA is also allowing all NSLP/SBP and SSO sponsors flexibility in meeting the sodium requirements during the 2021-22 school year. Opting into this waiver allows sponsors to serve meals that meet the Target 1 sodium requirements for the 2021-22 school year. Sponsors may apply for these flexibilities using the Meal Pattern Waiver Request form.
- Providing Multiple Meals at a Time USDA Tip Sheet: NSLP (PDF)
- CSNA Grab n' Go Menus & Recipes is a repository for Colorado recipes and cycle menus. Share your recipes and menus here.
- The Lunch Box COVID-19 Resources includes tools, resources, and grants necessary to provide healthy meals.
- School Meals That Rock features menus and recipe ideas from across the nation.
- Local Food in COVID-19 Response and Recovery (PDF)
- Meal Pattern Comparison Chart (PDF): compares NSLP/SBP/SSO/SFSP/ASP and Pre-K Meal Patterns
- Supply Chain Considerations (PDF)
- FAQs: School Year 2021-22 FAQ (PDF)
- CDC Guidance: CDC Guidelines for Non-healthcare Industries (PDF), CDC Guidelines for School Nutrition Professionals, CDC Considerations for Schools, CDC Interim Guidance for School Administrators
- NSLP Resources: SNA Back-to-School Thought Starters (PDF), No Kid Hungry Meal Service Program Options (PDF), Financial Management Resource (PDF)
- School Closure Flow Chart (PDF)
- USDA Q&As for Child Nutrition Program Operations in School Year 2021-22 (PDF)
- SSO Toolkit