As you’re probably aware, the USDA announced 12 new waivers and waiver extensions just in time for last week’s Virtual National Child Nutrition Conference. KidKare by Minute Menu is just as excited as you are to see these much-needed waivers announced, because it means that you, our frontline childcare workers, can continue to operate against astounding odds.

This latest waiver package extends several existing waivers (and introduces two big ones!) to June 30, 2022. If we are going to be technical here—and we are, since this is policy we’re talking about—each of the waivers go into effect July 1, 2021.

There are two exceptions to this rule:  Nationwide Waiver of Onsite Monitoring Requirements for State Agencies in CACFP – EXTENSION 3 and Nationwide Waiver of Onsite Monitoring Requirements for Sponsors in CACFP – EXTENSION. These two waivers will remain in effect until 30 days after the end of the public health emergency, as declared by the US Department of Health and Human Services.

We’ve taken the 12 waivers issued last week, paired them down to just those that affect CACFP, and summarized them for you right here. Remember to check with your state agency and/or sponsoring agency to find out which waivers may apply to you.

Specific Meal Pattern Flexibility in CACFP & Area Eligibility

Let’s get this party started with the most exciting of the waivers to come out last week:

  • Specific Meal Pattern Flexibility in CACFP for School Year 2021-2022
  • Waiver of Area Eligibility in Afterschool Programs and for Family Daycare Homes for School Year 2021-2022

Nationwide Waiver to Allow Specific Meal Pattern Flexibility in CACFP for School Year 2021-2022

While we don’t want to compare two excellent waivers, this waiver contains a flexibility that we’re sure a lot of people were excited about. But, before we get to the big reveal, let’s get the disclaimer out of the way:

The policy memo outlining this waiver state that local operators are still expected to meet meal standards to the best of their ability—this includes implementation of ounce equivalents. However, due to the challenges of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, this waiver provides some flexibility to allow you to continue to serve your communities despite food supply chain disruptions or additional hardship.

So, what exactly does this waiver…waive?

  • Whole Grain Rich: At least one serving of grains each day must be whole grain rich.
  • Ounce Equivalents: The crediting of grains by ounce equivalents must be fully implemented by October 1, 2021.
  • Flavored Milk: Low-fat milk (1%) must be unflavored.

Let’s take a moment to discuss the ounce equivalents piece here. The USDA did note during Ask USDA that the implementation date for ounce equivalents remains October 1, 2021 despite this waiver. However, sponsors in participating states may request to delay implementation until June 30, 2022 due to hardship under this waiver.

Never fear, KidKare by Minute Menu stands ready to help you implement the ounce equivalents requirement if you or your state wish to proceed by the October 1, 2021 deadline. We’ve got big plans in store for this one—stay tuned!

Nationwide Waiver of Area Eligibility in Afterschool Programs and for Family Daycare Homes for School Year 2021-2022

Another showstopper of a waiver, this waives area eligibility for ARAS sites and allows family daycare homes to claim all meals at Tier 1 rates regardless of location. This waiver was issued to support daycare homes and community organizations in reopening to serve those in their community who need it most.

Home sponsors—don’t go changing your providers to Tier 1 in Minute Menu HX just yet. KidKare by Minute Menu will address this waiver in Minute Menu HX soon!

Meal Service Waivers

Nationwide Waiver to Allow Non-Congregate Meal Service for School Year 2021-2022 & Nationwide Waiver to Allow Parents and Guardians to Pick Up Meals for Children for School Year 2021-2022

We’ve grouped these two waivers together simply because you can’t have parent-guardian meal pickup without non-congregate meal service! These are your grab-and-go meals and meals you package up to send home with children. The parent element simply means that a parent can pick meals up for their child, versus the child coming to pick the meal up themselves.

Nationwide Waiver of Meal Times Requirements for School Year 2021-2022

Under this waiver, childcare providers can serve meals outside of approved meal times to allow safe and socially distance meals for children in their care. This will help childcare centers and providers continue to account for challenges in meeting set meal times during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Monitoring Waivers for State & Sponsoring Agencies

Nationwide Waiver of Onsite Monitoring Requirements for State Agencies in CACFP – EXTENSION 3

This extends the waiver of on-site monitoring requirements for state agencies to allow flexibility and support during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Nationwide Waiver of Onsite Monitoring Requirements for Sponsors in CACFP – EXTENSION

This extends the waiver of onsite monitoring requirements for sponsoring organizations in the CACFP, which means you can keep doing those desk reviews! All other monitoring requirements, such as review frequency and type, are still in effect.  

Visit https://fns.usda.gov for the complete text of each of the waivers summarized in this article.

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