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Winter 2021 Nutrition Newsletter

Dear Community,

I hope all of our readers had a relaxing winter break and are now feeling refreshed and ready to tackle 2021. Ensuring students continue to have access to safe, nutritious and affordable school meals throughout the new year is more important than ever. Our Winter 2021 newsletter provides information on the child nutrition programs and the program waivers that have helped these programs to feed more than 700,000 children in Michigan’s schools. Everyone in our organization is unwaveringly grateful for the hard work of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Michigan Department of Education (MDE), school districts, sponsors and food service workers whose continued diligence ensures children don't go hungry during these uncertain times.

It is the continued goal of Center for Civil Justice (CCJ) to help Michigan's school districts and other community partners in promoting child nutrition and fighting hunger. Please share this newsletter with fellow school administrators, stakeholders, and advocacy organizations, and
contact us for assistance in getting your school district or community organization involved.

Kelly Bidelman
Executive Director

USDA's Nationwide COVID-19 Child Nutrition Waivers

USDA has issued several child nutrition program waivers to ensure students have access to meals while communities respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. In preparation for the 2020-21 school year, the USDA has announced waiver extensions allowing continued flexibilities on mandatory group settings and to allow parents or guardians to pick up meals for their children.

The non-congregate waiver allows schools and sponsors to serve children meals in creative ways, with some districts choosing to deliver meals at bus stops and others allowing parents to drive to sites and pick up grab-n-go meals Options like these support the CDC’s recommended “social distancing” to help stop the spread of COVID-19 while helping make sure children are provided with proper nutrition. To see which programs are eligible for various waivers, check out the chart below. For more information and to stay updated on program waivers, visit https://www.fns.usda.gov/cn/child-nutrition-monitoring-nationwide-waiver.

Advocates and partners can also help spread the word about the availability of meals. Open site locations can be found using USDA’s site locator.

How Pandemic EBT Helps Michigan Families

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and amidst the nationwide shut down of schools during the 2019-2020 school year, Pandemic-EBT (P-EBT) was established with the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). This novel program allowed state agencies to provide nutrition assistance to students receiving free or reduced cost meals with the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program. The program was first implemented in Michigan and aimed to address increased food insecurity amongst school aged children related to the loss of school meals during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Households that were receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits or who had at least one child in a school participating in the Community Eligibility Program (CEP) were automatically eligible. Benefits have been distributed to families twice, once in April for the loss of March and April meal costs and again in June for the months of May and June. On October 1, 2020, a short-term spending package was approved, which includes extended funding of P-EBT benefits for the 2020-2021 school year, language for the provisioning of meals at schools engaged in hybrid-learning models and expands P-EBT to young children who attend child care facilities. For more information on P-EBT visit New America's report, "It has meant everything": How P-EBT Helped Families in Michigan.

If parents in your school or district inquire whether they should have received P-EBT benefits, they may contact the Department of Health and Human Services at 1-833-905-0028, and an inquiry team will work to determine eligibility and distribute accurate payments.

Tips for Expanding Nutrition Programs

Implement the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP): CEP season is just around the corner! Interested before June 30th, interested schools must decide to adopt CEP, a powerful tool for high-poverty schools that provides breakfast and lunch to all participating students at no charge. CEP reduces administrative paperwork for schools so they can focus on providing healthy meals that help students learn and thrive! CEP also, increases school meal participation by removing stigma and maximizes federal reimbursements. Community eligibility is a win for everyone—administrators, students, families, and school nutrition staff!

Increase Participation in Your School Breakfast Program (SBP): The SBP makes it possible for all school children in Michigan to receive a nutritious breakfast every school day. Yet, many Michigan students are not participating in the School Breakfast Program. Implement best practices to ensure all students have access to a nutritious morning meal, including

Implement the Afterschool Meal Program: The Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) provides federal funding to afterschool programs operating in low-income areas to serve meals and snacks to children after school, on weekends and during school holidays. Schools are a natural fit for operating the Afterschool Meal Program since they have experience with the child nutrition programs and often have a ready audience that participates in afterschool programs.

Implement the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP): Almost 1.5 million Michigan children received free and reduced price school meals through the School Breakfast and National School Lunch Programs in 2018. During the summer while school is out, many of these children go without adequate nutrition. The federally funded SFSP allows programs to provide free summer meals to children that may otherwise go hungry. Now is the time to begin planning for next summer! Contact CCJ if you would like more information on launching a summer meal program in your community.

Make Changes to Meet (and Exceed) the Break-Even Point: To help ensure your program's long term financial viability, consider following some of these tips, such as changing your program's menu planning techniques, working to require less deliveries, utilizing USDA commodities to the fullest extent, and monitoring inventory daily.

Reduce School Meal Debt: The majority of school districts have unpaid school meal debt. To prevent debt accrual, schools should ensure that students who qualify for free or reduced-price meals are receiving meals at the appropriate rate by making multiple attempts to engage households in applying for school meals. Further, schools that have high percentages of low-income students, should consider serving free meals though the Community Eligibility Provision or Provision 2. Find More strategies to reduce school meal debt, here.


If you have any questions, please contact Jessica Flint, CCJ's health advocate, by email at jflint@ccj-mi.org or by phone at (810) 238-8053.

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