Summer Food Service Program and Seamless Summer Option Technical Assistance

Summer Food Service Program and Seamless Summer Option Technical Assistance

Restart Technical Assistance for School Year 2020-2021

 

Introduction

Ohio’s Strategic Plan for Education, Each Child, Our Future, and Ohio’s Whole Child Framework recognize that each child is unique and has basic needs – including nutrition – that must be met to enable learning. As schools operate child nutrition programs for school year 2020-2021, they must change traditional meal service operations and practices to help diminish the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) while continuing to provide nutritious meals. To achieve this goal, the Ohio Department of Education has developed this technical assistance resource to provide schools important updates and information to operate successful child nutrition programs for the 2020-2021 school year.
 

Area Eligibility During the Coronavirus Outbreak

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) approved a waiver for Ohio that permits school food authorities and sponsors in good standing to operate open or closed enrolled sites under either the Seamless Summer Option or Summer Food Service Program through June 30, 2021. On Oct. 9, the USDA approved an Area Eligibility Extension through June 30. On Sept. 3, the Office of Integrated Student Supports updated Ohio’s Area Eligibility During the Coronavirus Outbreak policy. Per the updated Ohio policy, all school food authorities and affiliated sites that participated in the school year 2019-2020 National School Lunch Program are considered area eligible and may elect to participate in the Summer Food Service Program or Seamless Summer Option. School food authorities new to the National School Lunch Program in school year 2020-2021 will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis for Seamless Summer Option or Summer Food Service Program election.  
 

Accommodations for Children with Disabilities in the School Meals Programs

The USDA School Meal Programs aim to provide all participating children, regardless of background, with the nutritious meals and snacks they need to be healthy. School food authorities must provide accommodations for disabilities when supported by the proper documentation regardless of the current circumstances. Meals must be served in a manner that offers a safe environment for children with food allergies or other disabilities. Strategies for providing safe and appropriate meals may include:
  • Cleaning and sanitizing surfaces prior to the meal service.
  • Training staff on proper handwashing.
  • Working closely with school staff involved in the meal service to ensure there is proper communication of what is needed to provide safe meals when necessary.
  • Documenting food safety plans into standard operating procedures to ensure safety in the production and service of meals to children with allergies.
  • Publishing planned meals and identifying allergens, if able.
  • Identifying secure methods to receive and communicate personally identifying student information with families and school staff.
 
For additional information, refer to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Accommodating Children with Disabilities in the School Meal Programs, Guidance for School Food Service Professionals.
 

Claims Reimbursement and Reporting System (CRRS) Application

School food authorities opting to serve meals under the Summer Food Service Program or Seamless Summer Option must fully complete and submit a CRRS application. Applications must be approved before a sponsor can operate and claim meals for reimbursement. Remember that changes to the school meals application may be made if situations change throughout the year.
 
School food authorities should indicate any changes in the meal service including non-congregate feeding, meal service times and “offer versus serve” waivers in each site application. School food authorities are encouraged to be as detailed as possible in the site application about any modifications to the traditional meal service.
 
Please note, schools operating in September 2020 must complete or amend their application for the 2019-2020 program year. Schools operating from October 2020 – June 2021 must complete and submit a Summer Food Service Program or Seamless Summer Option application for the 2020-2021 program year.
 
For assistance completing the application, please refer to the Summer Nutrition Program Application Tips document in the Claims Reimbursement and Reporting System Download Forms.
 

Summer Nutrition Program Waivers During the 2020-2021 School Year  

If a school food authority wishes to exercise any waiver including non-congregate meals, parent or guardian pickup of non-congregate meals, meal service time flexibility or “offer versus serve,” then the school food authority must complete and submit the Summer Nutrition Programs through June 30, 2021 application.
 

Meal Service

Meals must meet the regular menu planning requirements of the Seamless Summer Option or Summer Food Service Program. Weekend and holiday meals are permitted under the Seamless Summer Option and Summer Food Service Program. The following are various requirements for the meal service depending on the three learning environments as described below.
 
Classroom Learning: Meal service for students in the school building full-time may occur in the cafeteria, hallway kiosks or classroom. Schools must consider current social distancing requirements and recommendations when planning their meal service.
 
Blended Learning: Meal service in a blended learning environment will include aspects of classroom and remote learning meal service. Meal service for students in the school building may occur in the cafeteria, hallway kiosks or classroom. Meal service during remote learning must be non-congregate, meaning the meal is consumed offsite. Non-congregate meal service options include take home meals, home delivery, curbside pick-up, bus stop pick-up or other methods.
 
Remote Learning: Meal service must be provided non-congregate, meaning the meal is consumed offsite. Non-congregate meal service options include home delivery, curbside pickup, bus stop pickup or other methods.
 
Remember that if a school food authority opts to serve non-congregate meals and applies for the non-congregate waiver, the school food authority must make non-congregate meals available to all enrolled students as clarified in SP 24-2020, Questions and Answers for the Child Nutrition Programs during School Year 2020-2021 #5.
 

Meal Pattern Requirements

Meals must meet the menu planning requirements of National School Lunch Program (if operating the Seamless Summer Option) or the Summer Food Service Program.
 
Seamless Summer Option: As a result of a recent court ruling, meals must meet the requirements of the U.S. Department of Education, Nutrition Standards in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs final rule (2012). For 2020-2021 in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs, flavored milk may be only non-fat; all grains served must be whole-grain rich; and school lunches and breakfasts offered must meet Target 2 weekly sodium levels as defined in federal regulations. Schools should continue to follow the age and grade group meal patterns. If the school food authority cannot reasonably meet the meal pattern requirements, the school food authority must submit a Meal Pattern Flexibilities During the 2020-2021 School Year application.
 
Senior high schools (grades 9-12) should consider the feasibility of “offer versus serve.” “Offer versus serve” is a provision in the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program that allows students to decline some of the food offered. The goals of “offer versus serve” are to reduce food waste in the school meals programs while permitting students to decline foods they do not intend to eat. If a senior high school wishes to waive the “offer versus serve” requirement, they must complete and submit the 2020-2021 School Meals Program Operations during COVID-19 survey indicating as such. Schools must continue to follow the age and grade group meal patterns. The use of USDA Foods is highly encouraged to help lower commercial food expenditures. USDA Foods is beneficial in lowering food costs while providing nutritious meals to students. Refer to the USDA Team Nutrition for recipe ideas and to share recipe ideas with other schools. Meal planning differs for the learning environments and is described in further detail below.
 
Classroom Learning: Schools should consider meals that may be easily consumed in other places than the cafeteria.
 
Blended Learning: Schools must consider the feasibility of developing menus that can be used for both congregate and non-congregate meal service. If infeasible, schools will need to maintain separate menus for congregate and non-congregate meal service.
 
Remote Learning: Schools must serve non-congregate meals, meaning meals are consumed offsite. If schools opt for multi-day distribution, schools should consider providing bulk meal packaging rather than individually packaged items. If the school food authority allows for pickup at a different location than the student’s assigned school, the school food authority should make every effort to make all age and grade group meals available at the location.
 
“Offer versus serve” will not apply and all meals must be unitized, meaning a complete reimbursable meal that meets the requirements of the menu planning method used, including milk, must be distributed. Shelf-stable milk may be used. Note: If a school encounters a situation where it runs out of an item that prevents the achievement of a reimbursable meal, it should immediately notify the Ohio Department of Education, but then continue to serve meals.
 

Meal Pattern Flexibilities During the 2020-2021 School Year Application

School food authorities needing meal pattern flexibilities for the 2020-2021 school year must complete and submit the Meal Pattern Flexibilities During the 2020-2021 School Year application. School food authorities may submit an application for the following meal pattern flexibilities, as clarified in SP 24-2020, Questions and Answers for the Child Nutrition Programs during School Year 2020-2021 #5
 

Meal Counting and Claiming

Under the Summer Food Service Program and Seamless Summer Option, school food authorities are not required to track meals by student name or eligibility category. Depending on the open, restricted open or closed enrolled operation, the school may count meals in the following ways:
 
Open: Meal counts may be taken using a check sheet or clicker.
 
Restricted Open: Meal counts may be taken using a check sheet or clicker up to the maximum allowed.
 
Closed Enrolled: Meal counts may be taken using a check sheet or clicker if the school can confirm the enrolled student attends the school for both congregate and non-congregate meals. For meals served non-congregate, the school should verify the enrolled student by the student’s identification card or any other approved method.
 

Refunding Meals Served in the National School Lunch Program

If a school food authority opts to serve meals under the Seamless Summer Option or Summer Food Service Program, the school food authority has the option to retroactively claim meals served under the National School Lunch Program to the first day of school. If a school food authority opts to retroactively claim meals under the Seamless Summer Option or Summer Food Service Program, the school must refund to the students all money collected for meals served. The school food authority should maintain records indicating that refunds were issued and done so equitably.
 

Multi-Day Distribution

School food authorities are permitted to offer up to one week of meals at a time. Weekend and holiday meals are permitted in the Seamless Summer Option and the Summer Food Service Program. Meals must be served non-congregate, meaning the meal is consumed off-site. School food authorities participating in multi-day distribution must claim the meals served based on the day the child is intended to consume the meals. School food authorities must detail their multi-day distribution approach for each site in the Claims Reimbursement and Reporting System Site Application.
 
Note: Meals served for consumption in the school building do not qualify for non-congregate feeding and may not be included in the multi-day distribution plan. For example, if students attend school in-person Monday and Tuesday, are served breakfast and lunch in-school both days and attend remotely Wednesday through Friday, the school may offer three breakfasts and three lunches as part of a multi-day distribution approach for the days of remote learning.
 

Meal Pickup without Children Present

Parents or guardians are permitted to pick up non-congregate meals without children present. School food authorities should make a good faith effort to ensure food is being picked up for children when allowing meal pickup without children present. The Ohio Parent, Guardian or Agency Meal Pickup Without Children Present policy provides additional information and guidance. The USDA published a Best Practices for Parent Pick-Up of Meals and Snacks to assist schools.
 
Note: Schools serving meals in the school building full-time are not permitted to allow meal pickup without children present. Only schools participating in non-congregate feeding may allow parent or guardian pickup without children present.
 

School Bus Safety and Meal Delivery

Schools considering non-congregate meal distribution via school district buses must continue to abide by rules and regulations as established in the Ohio Pupil Transportation Operation and Safety Rules. Bus drivers play an important role in safely transporting students to and from their homes. It may be difficult for a driver to distribute meals and accurately count and claim meals while ensuring safety of students. 
 

Sponsors Contracting with Food Service Management Companies and Vendors

The USDA issued a nationwide waiver permitting sponsors to extend existing Food Service Management Company contracts that would not otherwise be eligible for extension through June 30, 2021.
 
Please remember that sponsors contracting with vendors are responsible for ensuring vendors follow program meal delivery requirements, such as verifying milk is delivered in coolers on ice, temperatures are taken of all items, and the delivery slip is signed and the sponsor receives a signed copy. The sponsor must ensure all components of the meal are sent daily and menu substitutions are documented on the posted menu if the vendor sends unanticipated food components. Sponsors unhappy with vendor performance must follow the procedures found in Section 12 of the vended meals contract and maintain documentation prior to termination. Updated contracts are available in the Claims Reimbursement and Reporting System under Download Forms.
 

On-site Monitoring

Traditionally, sponsors are expected to conduct various on-site monitoring activities during summer operations. In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the USDA issued a nationwide waiver that removes the requirement for an in-person site visit during the first week of a site’s operation and the requirement for a review of the site’s food service within the first four weeks of operation. Sponsors must continue to ensure integrity to the maximum extent practicable through remote activities, such as desk audits.
 

Resources

The Reset and Restart Education Planning Guide for Ohio Schools and Districts is designed to help schools and their partners understand guidelines and considerations for reopening school buildings during the continued presence of COVID-19 in a way that protects the health and safety of vulnerable members of school communities.  
 
The COVID-19 Health and Prevention Guidance for Ohio K-12 Schools provides a framework for districts and school leaders to reopen school buildings while also helping their students and staff reduce the risk of exposure and prevent the spread of COVID-19 in their communities.  
  
School food authorities should continue to check the Claims Reimbursement and Reporting System Download Forms for updated resources and guides to assist schools. Resource guides are updated regularly.  
 
For more information and questions, email child.nutrition@education.ohio.gov or contact an Education Program Specialist. 
 
 

Last Modified: 11/4/2020 11:25:02 AM