MDE to Request Federal Waivers for Summer Food Service Program

Contact: Martin Ackley, Director of Public and Governmental Affairs 517-241-4395
Agency: Education

January 25, 2019

LANSING – The Michigan Department of Education (MDE) announced today that it will request waivers of statutory and regulatory requirements in the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), in accordance with federal guidance.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Office of Inspector General recently found that waivers from SFSP requirements, approved by the USDA on a national level, must be requested by states individually.

The affected SFSP waivers – designed to help states and program sponsors efficiently operate their summer meals programs – were canceled effective October 11, 2018.

As a result of that national decision, MDE will be seeking federal approval for waivers of the following regulations for Michigan before its 2019 summer meals program begins in June:

  • Only school food authorities may use Offer vs. Serve (OVS) in the Summer Food Service Program
  • Only school meal pattern rules to be followed when using OVS
  • Regulatory limitations on meal service times; flexibilities would be allowed

Offer vs. Serve (OVS) is an option when serving meals (breakfast, lunch and supper) that gives children the choice to pick different food items available for the meal, instead of serving them all of the components of the prepared meal. If a child doesn’t want a specific food, OVS gives them the choice to not take the food item and choose options they do want. OVS helps save on food waste, food costs, and increases choice/independence for children.

The waiver to remove time limitations will allow sponsors to serve meals and snacks when it is best for the site. Without the waiver, sites will have to have at least three hours between breakfast, lunch and snacks; four hours between lunch and supper; and no meals/snacks can be served after 8 p.m. Many sponsors do not have that amount of time between meals. 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. With this waiver, children wouldn’t have to wait around for the meal, that also could see fewer meal service options and meals served to children in Michigan.

Summer Food Service Program sponsors do not need to request waivers.

For questions about Michigan’s summer meals program, contact SFSP Consultant Sara Harmon at 517-241-5374 or mde-sfsp@michigan.gov.