Area Eligibility During the COVID-19 Outbreak

Area Eligibility During the COVID-19 Outbreak

To: National School Lunch Program School Food Authorities (SFAs) and Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) Sponsors Serving Meals During Coronavirus (COVID-19)
 
From:  Brigette Hires, Child Nutrition Program Manager, Office of Integrated Student Supports
 
Date: April 2, 2020, revised September 2, 2020
 
Re:  Area Eligibility During the COVID-19 Outbreak
 

Purpose

This policy provides guidance to a) National School Lunch Program (NSLP) School Food Authorities operating under the Seamless Summer Option (SSO) or b) Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) sponsors about expanding area eligibility during the coronavirus (COVID-19) meal distribution process.
 

Overview

Under the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act section 13(a)(1)(A) and program regulations at 7 CFR 225.2, 225.6(c)(2)(i)(G), 225.6(c)(3)(i)(B), 225.6(d)(1)(i), 225.14(c)(3) and 225.16(b)(4), sponsors are required to conduct regularly scheduled food service for children from areas in which poor economic conditions exist. The act and cited regulations envision program operators maintaining children’s access to nutritious meals during the summer months and supporting families experiencing financial hardship. However, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service recognizes that during the current public health emergency, households in areas that do not meet the criteria of poor economic conditions may be facing financial hardship.
 
In keeping with the goal of maintaining children’s access to nutritious meals during the coronavirus pandemic, on March 28, 2020, the USDA issued to the Ohio Department of Education a waiver related to the restrictions of site eligibility requirements.
 
On Aug. 31, the USDA extended this waiver through Dec. 31, recognizing that program operators continue to need additional support and flexibility to serve meals to children in need while managing the impacts of COVID-19. Continued use of the Summer Food Service Program and Seamless Summer Option would allow a smooth transition into school, ease administrative burden associated with traditional school meal operations and ensure student safety.   
 

Policy

In the April 2020 policy, School Food Authorities and Summer Food Service Program sites with 30 percent or more enrolled students eligible for free and reduced-price meals or located in a Census Block Group or Census Tract in which 30 percent or more of the children are eligible for free or reduced-price meals may operate as open sites. Additional area eligibility approval was determined based on coronavirus-related economic hardship defined as schools and summer sites in areas experiencing at least 3 times the unemployment rate as the same time period in 2019.
 
As authorized by the Aug. 31 USDA area eligibility extension and due to the State of Ohio having experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic increased unemployment by a factor of three or more as compared to statewide 2019 averages, all school food authorities and affiliated sites that participated in the National School Lunch Program in school year 2019-2020 are considered area eligible.
 
Summer Food Service Program Sponsors and School Food Authorities newly participating in the National School Lunch Program in 2020-2021 may elect and operate an open site in the Summer Food Service Program if 30 percent or more enrolled students are eligible for free and reduced-price meals or the site is located in a Census Block Group or Census Tract in which 30 percent or more of the children are eligible for free or reduced-price meals. School Food Authorities newly participating in the National School Lunch Program that have less than 30 percent of enrolled students qualifying for free and reduced-price meals will be considered for this waiver on a case-by-case basis. 
 
Area eligibility is determined by data provided in the October 2019 Data for Free and Reduced-Price Meals. The Ohio Department of Education will notify School Food Authorities operating at sites with 30-50 percent of enrolled students eligible for free or reduced-price meals of the new area eligibility qualification.
 
School Food Authorities and Summer Food Service Program Sponsors participating in the Seamless Summer Option or Summer Food Service Program must complete a Claims Reimbursement and Reporting System (CRRS) application. 
 

Duration

This policy is effective immediately and remains in effect until December 31, 2020, or until expiration of the federally declared public health emergency or until funding is depleted, whichever is earlier.

Last Modified: 9/3/2020 3:55:27 PM