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Emergency Feeding

Emergency feeding

School Food Authorities (SFAs) and other child nutrition program sponsors can serve free meals to children in the event of an unanticipated school closure, extreme weather event, natural disaster, or other similar situation. It is highly recommended that SFAs and sponsors develop an Emergency Readiness Plan to ensure a rapid and efficient response if an emergency situation arises.


Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Information

Information will be updated as soon as new information arises. Please refer to the following websites for more information about COVID-19:

Medical icon in red representing COVID-19


For students and families

Getting school meals while schools are closed

As school districts across Colorado announce school closures to help minimize the spread of the novel coronavirus, the Colorado Department of Education is working to mitigate food insecurity among youth. 

Colorado received a waiver from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that allows students to take meals away from meal sites to be consumed elsewhere, allowing for social distancing. The goal of these alternative meal services is to provide meals to children while limiting interaction and proximity to other schoolmates, therefore, decreasing the risk of COVID-19 exposure.

Families are encouraged to check with their local school district for the school meal sites available in their communities. Additionally, households that qualify can receive USDA Food packages through USDA Foods household programs. View Hunger Free Colorado's COVID-19 site for additional resources. 

View school meal sites available in your communities

Locations of School Feeding Sites

Use the tool below or view the map online.

COVID-19 and Public Charge

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has issued clarification encouraging all individuals with symptoms of COVID-19 to seek ;treatment and testing. Such treatment or preventative services will not negatively affect future public charge determinations.


For school districts and sponsors

Pursuant to the COVID–19 Child Nutrition Response Act (the Act) (H.R. 6201, Title II), and based on the exceptional circumstances of this public health emergency, the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) established nationwide waivers. CDE School Nutrition is approved for all waivers. 

  • Nationwide Waiver to Allow Meal Service Time Flexibility in the Child Nutrition Programs (CNP): waives meal service time requirements.
  • Nationwide Waiver to Allow Meal Pattern Flexibility in the Child Nutrition Programs: If your sponsor is having difficulty meeting the Summer Food Service Program meal pattern, please contact Jon Padia or Erin Opgenorth to discuss best practices, challenges, and if appropriate, a meal pattern flexibility waiver. 
  • Nationwide Waiver to Allow Non-congregate Feeding in CNP: allows students to take meals away from the meal sites to be consumed elsewhere, thereby allowing for social distancing. 
  • Nationwide Waiver of the Activity Requirement in Afterschool Care in CNP: applies to School Food Authorities (SFAs) participating in the Afterschool Snack Program and waives the educational or enrichment activity requirement. 
  • Nationwide Waiver to Allow Parents and Guardians to Pick Up Meals for Children: allows a parent or guardian to pick up meals for their children, as long as accountability and integrity of the program are protected.
  • Nationwide Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) Data Waiver: USDA Food and Nutrition Services extended the deadlines for reporting SY 2019-20 student counts to establish SY 2020-21’s identified student percentage for CEP, as well as for the required LEA and State notifications and CEP election. 
  • Pandemic EBT: Children who qualify for Free or Reduced-price meals if not for school closures are eligible to receive assistance under this provision. USDA is providing guidance to state agencies on plan requirements in order to receive approval.
  • Waiver to Allow Operation of SFSP or SSO by Non-area Eligible Sponsors: Approved. Allows SFSP and SSO sponsors in good standing to operate open sites in areas approved by CDE but that are not located in “areas in which poor economic conditions exist”.
  • Nationwide Waivers of Child Nutrition Monitoring: Waives certain onsite monitoring requirements for the school meals programs, the Child and Adult Care Food Program, and the Summer Food Service Program.
  • Nationwide Waiver of 60 Day Reporting Requirements for January and February 2020: Applies only to claims for January and February 2020. Deadlines for these two claim months are extended for 30 days from their original required date of submission.

View the specific waivers submitted on the CDE School Nutrition Waivers page. For questions about emergency feeding, email our team at emergencyfeeding@cde.state.co.us for assistance. 

Important Information About Emergency Feeding Claiming

All meals served through Emergency Feeding in response to COVID-19 are NOT to be claimed in the Colorado Child Nutrition Hub. CDE School Nutrition will provide guidance about how to claim these meals in the coming weeks. For all March claiming, only submit meals served during normal operations from the beginning of the month. Please contact Free&ReducedPriceSchoolMeals@cde.state.co.us with all claiming questions.

Available Funding Opportunities: 

Colorado COVID-19 Emergency Hunger Relief Fund 

The Colorado Blueprint to End Hunger has partnered with a number of local funders to respond to hunger needs and are pleased to share that the Request for Application for the Colorado COVID-19 Emergency Hunger Relief Fund is now live. Please note the turnaround for this RFA is quick; applications will open each week on Monday and close on Wednesday of the same week. 

For more information and to apply, visit the CO Blueprint to End Hunger’s webpage

Coronavirus Grant Request through No Kid Hungry 

School Food Authorities (SFAs) and nonprofit organizations can apply for emergency grants through No Kid Hungry. The grants support these organizations in their efforts to ensure kids get the nutritious food they need. Please complete the information No Kid Hungry requests online, and they will be in touch with instructions if your organization is eligible for funding.

For questions, contact grantshelpdesk@strength.org or call 800-969-4767.

Using Vended Meals for Emergency Feeding 

SFAs and schools that are not able to prepare meals during a school closure may consider purchasing vended meals to serve. Vended meals are unitized, reimbursable meals that may be purchased with or without milk. Vended meals must be purchased from a CO Registered Meal Vendor (PDF), and SFAs/schools must submit the Vended Meals Emergency Agreement (DOC) to Megan Johnson for approval. 

CO COVID-19 Retail Food Establishment Public Health Order

COVID-19 Public Health Order 20-22 (PDF) from Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment applies to retail food establishments including SFAs and sponsors offering meals to children. The goal of the order is to minimize in-person interaction to decrease transmission of COVID-19. The steps focus on avoiding congestion of people and implementing heightened food safety practices. For questions, contact Troy Huffman at 303-692-3664. 

Resources and Documentation:


Which Programs are Available for Emergency Feeding?

  • Seamless Summer Option (SSO)

    • SSO is only available to SFAs during the school year during an unanticipated school closure.
    • May serve children ages 0-18 years.
    • Locations must meet area eligibility requirements.
    • Example: Teacher Strike during the school week.
  • Summer Food Service Program (SFSP)

    • SFSP is available to organizations with current agreements to operate SFSP outside of the school year in a disaster situation.
    • May serve children ages 0-18 years.
    • Locations must meet area eligibility requirements.
    • Example: Boys and Girls club during the summer after a flood.

Contact McKenna Pullen at 720-644-7259 to provide emergency feeding through SSO or SFSP.

  • Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP)

    • CACFP is available at emergency shelters providing temporary housing for displaced families.
    • May serve children 0-18 years and disabled adult participants.

Contact Naomi Steenson at CDPHE to provide emergency feeding through CACFP.


Emergency Preparation Tools and Guidance


Building Excellent Schools Today Emergency Grant

The Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) Emergency Grant provides funding for public school facility emergencies. If an unanticipated event renders a significant portion or the entirety of a public school facility unusable for educational purposes, or if such poses an imminent threat to the health or safety of the persons using the public school facility, that school may be eligible for a BEST Emergency Grant.

For more information, contact Andy Stine.


Additional Guidance


USDA Information