October 3, 2022
The U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service recently released Streamlining Program Requirements and Improving Integrity in the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), a final rule that aims to simplify and clarify SFSP program requirements while also removing administrative barriers for sponsors. The final rule went into effect October 1, 2022.
This blog includes a background on this process, key provisions in the final rule, and things to consider as the new regulations are implemented.
A March 2018 Office of the Inspector General (OIG) audit of the Summer Food Service Program concluded that the process U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) used to issue nationwide waivers of SFSP — in particular, through policy memoranda instead of the rule-making process — was not authorized in the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act. The audit directed USDA to identify the requirements waived in these memos that should be formally incorporated into SFSP regulations through notice and comment rulemaking. In response to this review, USDA rescinded specific waivers in October 2018.
FRAC worked closely with national partners to share information about the impact of this rescission in three national webinars, provided guidance to sponsors and state agencies on applying for state waivers in the interim, and encouraged program operators to provide feedback when the proposed rule was published for comments in January 2020.
The SFSP final rule:
- Streamlines the SFSP for sponsors in good standing: It allows new SFSP sponsors that operate the School Nutrition Programs or the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) to follow the application requirements for experienced SFSP sponsors if they are in good standing. It also allows them to apply without providing further evidence of financial and administrative capabilities. USDA has provided some informal guidance on what this means for the Child Nutrition Programs but intends to address this issue through a separate rulemaking process.
- Limits Over versus Serve to school food authorities, excluding nonprofits and other non-school sponsors.
- Clarifies site visit requirements: The final rule requires sponsors to conduct a site visit in the first two weeks of operation for all new sites and those that experienced operational challenges the previous year. This is a positive departure from the proposed rule, which required that all sites be visited within two weeks and proposed a tiered framework of 10 or 14 days, depending on the number of sites.
- Provides key changes to waiver authority: The final rule codifies USDA’s authority to issue waivers while also allowing states to deny a waiver submitted by an eligible service provider without submitting it to the regional office.
- Provides greater flexibility for meal service times: The final rule removes meal service time restrictions but requires at least one hour elapse between the end of one meal service and the beginning of another. State agencies may also approve meals served outside of the approved meal service time in response to an unanticipated event that is outside of the sponsor’s control.
- Reinstates the use of area eligibility for closed enrolled sites: This rule allows closed enrolled sites to qualify using area eligibility data, in addition to collecting individual income forms to document that at least half of the children being served are eligible for free or reduced-price meals. State agencies must establish criteria for approving closed enrolled sites to ensure that the operation of a closed enrolled site does not limit program access to the community at large (i.e., this provision could increase incidence of sites that would otherwise have operated as an open site).
For a complete summary of the USDA SFSP final rule, click here.