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Sponsors Must follow all School Meal Program requirements during School Year 2022-23. This webpage provides guidance and resources for program operations impacted by COVID-19.

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School Food Service Waivers

CDE School Nutrition applied for and was approved for all allowable waivers for School Year 2022-23. The following flexibilities are allowable when the sponsor, county and/or operations are impacted by COVID-19. Sponsors must complete a waiver request and receive CDE approval to utilize the following flexibilities:

  • non-congregate feeding and parent/guardian pickup
  • alternate sites for the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program
  • waiver of offer versus serve at the high school level
  • meal time requirements

The waivers are intended to provide needed flexibility to support sponsors to safely serve meals to their community. The U.S. Department of Agriculture expects that flexibilities under the waivers requiring a request will only be implemented when meal service is limited by the COVID-19 pandemic. Impacted by COVID-19 could include, but is not limited to: staffing issues, supply chain issues (e.g., vendor delays, limited products), increase in COVID-19 cases (e.g., Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment map rates), preventative COVID-19 spread, following guidance from the local health department or following guidance and recommendations from the local school district, etc.

Sponsors may implement the following flexibilities without prior CDE approval:

  • Food Service Management Company contract duration
  • On-site reviews and reporting
  • Local wellness policy triennial assessment due date
  • Paid Lunch Equity price increase requirement
  • 30-day carryover flexibility

View details on all waivers

Request a Waiver: 

2022-23 School Nutrition Guidance

School Food Authorities will operate the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs during the 2022-23 school year:

Supply Chain Resources

Recorded Webinars

Be COVID-19 Safe 

Your local public health agency 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.

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:

If staff contract COVID-19: School Closure Flow Chart (PDF


Sponsors must provide, collect, and determine school meal eligibility using household income applications. Meals are reimbursed by student eligibility status at the established National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program rates.

NSLP/SBP: All disclosure requirements for release of student eligibility for non-program needs will apply. The 2022-23 free and reduced-price school meal application and supporting materials are available and located on the School Meal Eligibility webpage. Public school districts operating NSLP must report free and reduced-price eligibility totals for the annual At-Risk/Free Lunch October Count.

Best practices to encourage families to provide household income information:

  • Provide consistent and clear communication on how families can apply
  • 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

Student Eligibility Carryover

In School Year 2022-23, sponsors that operated the Seamless Summer Option in SY 2021-22 and do not have eligibility determinations from SY 2021-22 are allowed to use the most recent free and reduced-price determinations since SY 2019-20 during the 30-day carryover period. This allowance is student specific.

Pandemic-Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT) 

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

School year 2022-23 administrative reviews will return to in-person. Reviews will continue to assess compliance with program operations including current waivers and flexibilities in place for the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. Additionally, procurement reviews will take place this year alongside Administrative Reviews.

View the review schedule (PDF) for this school year along with the five-year review and technical assistance cycle (PDF). For more information, visit the administrative review webpage. For questions, contact your School Nutrition point person, who is also your reviewer.

Sponsors must follow the counting and claiming procedures under the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program. 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.


In School Year 2022-23, students must be charged for meals when they are not eligible for free or reduced-price meals. Additionally, sponsors must charge accordingly for second meals or milk, adult meals, a la carte items and catering. With the return of charging for student meals, sponsors must implement an unpaid meal charge policy and communicate that policy to households.


Meal Service

Planning for meal service:

  • Communicate to students, parents, and school administrators about how meals will be served this school year
  • Provide reminders to staff and students on reimbursable meals when using salad bards and self-serve stations
  • Use signage to communicate how to build a reimbursable meal
  • 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


Sponsors must provide meals that meet all NSLP and SBP meal pattern requirements. Offer versus Serve is not a requirement for high school students in School Year 2022-23 under an approved statewide waiver.

Sponsors must plan all menus to meet the grade group requirements for the grade groups served at each site. The allowable grade groups are K-5, 6-8, 9-12. Sponsors may also use the K-8 grade group at lunch and K-8 or K-12 grade groups at breakfast to streamline planning and service when serving multiple grade groups in one location. Pre-K students must follow the pre-K meal pattern when eating meals separately from older students. For example, if a site serves students in grades 6-12, that site must plan menus to meet the 6-8 and 9-12 grade group requirements. The number of physical sites and/or number of sites with distinct CDE building codes does not affect the grade group meal pattern requirements. Sponsors must also document information for each grade group served on the production records. This completed production record example shows how to document meals served to multiple grade groups.

Transitional Standards for milk, whole grains and sodium:

On March 2, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released the Transitional Standards for Milk, Whole Grains, and Sodium- Final Rule that is in place for School Years 2022-23 and 2023-24. For School Year 2022-23:

  • Sponsors may offer flavored low-fat milk to K-12 students and co-mingled pre-K students in NSLP and SBP. When offering flavored milk, sponsors must also offer non-flavored milk as part of the milk variety requirement. Flavored low-fat milk will also be allowed in the Special Milk Program and as a competitive beverage.
  • At least 80% of the grains served in the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program each week must be whole grain-rich. Each serving line must be assessed for compliance separately. For example, if students are able to choose from the main entrée line or a daily sandwich line, both lines must offer at least 80% whole grain-rich grains over the week.
  • The weekly sodium limit for NSLP and SBP will remain at Target 1 in School Year 2022-23. For NSLP only, there will be a 10% decrease in the limit in School Year 2023-24.

Planning the menu:

  • Determine which menu items fit staffing capacity and planned meal service model(s)
  • Determine if Offer versus Serve will be used
  • Revise standardized recipes and menus as necessary based on products available and the transitional meal pattern standards
  • Consider products that have a variety of uses and can be customized using flavor and seasoning
  • Develop a plan to accommodate students with special dietary needs


Resources and Tools