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Submit specific school year 2020-21 questions via the back-to-school question form

School Food Service Waivers

The USDA waivers apply only to the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP), not the Summer Food Service Program. These waivers provide the following flexibilities for the NSLP and SBP:

  • Non-congregate Feeding in the Child Nutrition Programs: Allows for off-site consumption of meals and serving models like grab-n-go, curbside pick-up, mobile/bus routes, and home delivery.
  • Meal Service Time Flexibility in the National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, and Child and Adult Care Food Program: Allows for serving multiple meals at once and/ or serving meals for multiple days at the same time. Sponsors must still establish meal service times or delivery times
  • Parents and Guardians to Pick Up Meals for Children: Allows parents/guardians to pick-up meals and bring them home to their children.
  • Meal Pattern Flexibility in the Child Nutrition Programs: Allows sponsors to claim for reimbursement even if a meal does not meet all meal pattern requirements or include all meal components. Sponsors must contact CDE School Nutrition for approval to use this wavier for school year 2020-21. Requests must be targeted and justified based on plans to support access to meals while minimizing potential exposure to COVID-19. 
  • Offer Versus Serve Flexibility for Senior High Schools in the National School Lunch Program for School Year 2020-21: Eliminates the requirement for senior high schools participating in the NSLP to implement offer versus serve. Allows schools to serve individually plated meals and enables schools to offer complete meals for delivery or pickup for students doing distance learning.

2020-21 School Nutrition Guidance

Be COVID-19 Safe 

Your local public health agency (LPHA) is the ultimate authority on food safety related questions. A plan for providing meals to students will be school district and, in some cases, building centric. For state-level guidance, consult Troy Huffman at 303-692-3664.

Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment resources:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention resources:

Staffing Considerations

Develop a staffing plan in case employees contract COVID-19. Back-up staffing plan considerations include identifying staff that are part of a high-risk group, providing cross-training and identifying back-ups, breaking up staff in teams to limit exposure, etc.

Staffing Plan Resources:

Medical icon in red representing COVID-19

Sponsors must still provide, collect, and determine eligibility using school meal applications: 

  • Use the updated Information Letter to Households (DOC) to promote the application and describe any new safety procedures for application submission. 
  • Applications must be accessible for all households (paper or online). Paper applications must always be provided upon request.

For all learning models, families will still need to apply for free or reduced-price meal benefits:

  • Provide consistent and clear communication on how families can apply for meal benefits
  • Promote online application as a component in online registration
  • Mail paper applications with pre-paid return envelopes or designate a drop-off point
  • Hold office hours for application assistance
  • Directly certify and extend eligibility to the greatest extent possible
  • Attach application and returning instruction to grab-n-go meals
  • Use marketing materials to incentivize applying

Pandemic-Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT) 

For more information on P-EBT and district templates and resources, visit the School Meal Eligibility webpage.

School meal administrative reviews and procurement reviews will not take place in school year 2020-21. Sponsors originally scheduled for a review in school year 2020-21 will be rescheduled to fit into the approved five-year cycle. A new review schedule is forthcoming. Sponsors will receive a SFSP review in school year 2020-21 if they were new to operating the SFSP during emergency feeding and did not receive a school meal administrative review in school year 2019-20.

Use the Procurement back to school considerations resource (PDF), which includes school year tips and best practices, as well as important questions to consider while planning for procurement for the upcoming school year.

Reference the equipment list for school year 2020-21 from No Kid Hungry for tips on how to re-purpose equipment and highlight equipment needed for meal delivery. 

2020 meal counting and claiming timeline

What sponsors need to provide: Consistent and clear communication on how students can receive school meals as well as the documentation needed at time of receiving meal (e.g. student ID, name, money, etc.).

How sponsors will claim: Sponsors must follow the counting and claiming procedures under the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP). Eligible meals for reimbursement must meet the NSLP and SBP meal pattern and be a reimbursable meal. Additionally, meals must be tracked by student and their associated free, reduced-price or paid eligibility status. All meals will be submitted for reimbursement within the Colorado Nutrition Portal.


Meal Service

Possible Meal Service Options

possible meal service options

Planning for meal service:

  • Communicate to students, parents, and school administrators about how and where meals will be distributed
  • Decide if additional equipment is needed to serve food safely or if equipment can be repurposed
  • Assess the packaging and disposable products needed for meal service
  • Reconfigure serving lines to allow for more physical distancing if meals are served in the cafeteria
  • Review staffing capacity to distribute meals and cover potentially extended mealtimes
  • Train teachers how to record reimbursable meals if serving in the classroom
  • Provide civil rights training to teachers if meals are served in the classroom
  • Coordinate with other departments, such as maintenance or transportation


Provide meals that meet all NSLP and SBP meal pattern requirements, safe distribution of meals, clear communication to households on how to access meals and training to staff outside of food and nutrition services.

Planning the menu:

  • Determine which menu items fit staffing capacity and planned meal service model(s)
  • Consider creating a two-week cycle menu with the top 10 entrées
  • Include vegetables in the cycle menu to ensure all subgroups are met; determine the top 2-3 vegetables in each subgroup for variety and backup
  • Determine if Offer versus Serve will be used; Offer versus Serve is not required for high schools
  • Develop a plan to accommodate students with special dietary needs

Resources and Tools