The Michigan Department of Education announced last week that it will be requesting waivers in order to change statutory and regulatory requirements associated with the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP).
SFSP participants help ensure that children who rely on school food do not experience food insecurity during extreme weather or other school closures.
The department is applying for the waivers after the U.S. Department of Agriculture Office of Inspector General recently discovered the SFSP waivers, which were previously approved by the USDA on a national scale, instead must be requested by individual states.
The MDE is seeking federal authority to let others than only school food authorities implement “Offer versus Serve” programs, as well as provide flexibility for mealtimes. It is also requesting a waiver so non-school site participants may also serve meals.
OVS programs allow students to decline some food, letting students have a choice while reducing food waste. Students may decline one food item out of four at breakfast and two out of five at lunch or dinner.
The department also applied to remove time limitations from the SFSP, which will allow site administrators to serve meals and snacks at a time that fits the needs of the site and the children best.
Without the waiver from the USDA, sites will have to wait at least three hours between breakfast, lunch and snacks, as well as four hours between lunch and supper. They also would not be allowed to serve meals or snacks after 8 p.m.
Site programming limitations, however, often mean that sponsors and sites do not have the ability to wait that long.
“If a site has programming for two hours and serves breakfast at 10 a.m. and programming is done at noon, the site would not be able to serve lunch until 1 p.m. at the earliest,” said a statement from the Michigan Department of Education. “With this waiver, children would not have to wait around for the meal and increase the number of meals served to children in Michigan.”
The waiver also impacts which locations can serve meals. Many locations that participate in SFSP are schools. The waiver would allow any SFSP-approved site to serve food during a school closure, including schools, rather than non-school sites only.
More information about the Summer Food Service Program can be found here.
Jordyn Pair is a reporter with Battleground State News and The Michigan Star. Follow her on Twitter at @JordynPair. Email her at [email protected]
Photo “Kids Eating Lunch” by Delaware Agriculture. CC BY 2.0.