Wednesday, September 15, 2021
Announcements from the WI DPI School Nutrition Team (SNT)
- Updates from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
- Updates from the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) School Nutrition Team (SNT)
As we leap into another school year, labor shortages, supply chain issues, and school closures have made for an interesting start. This will be another unprecedented year for School Nutrition Professionals navigating the COVID-19 pandemic while keeping students nourished and ready to learn.
We must continue to be flexible; pivoting from one way of doing things to another pushes us to be on our toes and to think outside the box each day. Whether it is finding a substitution for a menu item or calling in administration to help serve meals, having a plan B is important. Make sure your staff and the school/district administration know what is going on. Good communication is key. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, as the pandemic has shown us how to come together, network, and be supportive of each other.
We encourage you to share your struggles, questions, concerns, and best practices with the DPI SNT. We appreciate hearing from you and will take the opportunity to share what we learn from you with USDA. The more information they have, the more informed their decisions will be when issuing new guidance.
While we cannot predict all the challenges School Nutrition Professionals will face this year, please know that the DPI SNT is here to help meet them. Please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for all you are doing to help keep Wisconsin’s children fed and healthy!
USDA Policy Memorandum SP 21-2021: Questions and Answers for Child Nutrition Program Reporting in School Year 2021-22
This memorandum contains question and answer guidance on Child Nutrition Program administrative reporting requirements in school year 2021–22. Topics include reporting of National School Lunch Program (NSLP) Seamless Summer Option (SSO) meals and snacks reimbursed at the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) payment rates, as well as other COVID-19 related reporting issues.
Five Ways to Add Meat and Meat Alternatives to Your Back-to-School Menu
- Put Local Meats and Meat Alternates on the Menu: Include local meat in special events, such as back-to-school barbecues. Don’t forget to include local beans, peas, and lentils as vegetarian options. You can enhance the flavor of meats and meat alternates without added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium using spices! For example, try a smoky and savory barbeque blend. Learn more about Local Meat in Schools and get tips on incorporating new spices from the Institute of Child Nutrition’s iBite Videos.
- Use Meats and Meat Alternates from USDA Foods: Try offering the top-rated Stir-Fry Fajita Chicken, Squash, and Corn recipe made with the USDA Foods in Schools Program frozen chicken fajita strips. If you’re looking for more variety, try USDA foods Pulled Pork and Chickpeas to make Savory Street Tacos with Fiesta Corn Salad similar to the ones shown in the photo from East Hampton Public Schools in Connecticut. See the full list of USDA Foods Available for School Year 2021-22.
- Go Big with Beans: Beans can be a popular vegetarian or vegan menu item. They can be purchased ahead and stored for “back up” entrees. One type of cooked bean can often be substituted for another in recipes. Beans often hold up well in grab n’ go meals and can be an affordable protein source. Black Bean Patty with Crema Sauce, Refried Beans, Smokin’ Powerhouse Chili, Fiesta Wrap, Black Bean Hummus, and more recipes are available through the Child Nutrition Recipe Box.
- Get Trendy with Meal Bowls: Colorado’s Greeley-Evans Weld County School District purchased an industrial packaging machine so they could offer scratch-made meal bowls. The district’s central production kitchen team does the cooking, portioning, sealing, and freezing before shipping them to the sites for reheating and final service. The bowls fit well into insulated totes for delivery to the classrooms. The district says that high school students have been choosing the bowls over pizza! Give USDA’s Bean Burrito Bowl recipe a try!
- Offer Meats and Meat Alternates at Breakfast: Try different fruit and yogurt combinations to make colorful smoothies that are perfect for grab n’ go meal service. Learn more in Team Nutrition’s Offering Smoothies as Part of Reimbursable School Meals guide. Find more meats and meat alternates breakfast menu ideas in the Offering Meats and Meat Alternates at School Breakfast guide.
Five Ways to Add Milk to Your Back-to-School Menus
- Source Local Milk: Milk is local, fresh, and always in season! Fluid milk is the second most frequently purchased local item by schools, according to the 2019 Farm to School Census. Thompson Public Schools in Connecticut partnered with Fort Hills Dairy Farm and other partners to expand their breakfast program offerings, and participation nearly doubled. Join the trend and support your local economy!
- Make Sure Milk is Cold: Having the right equipment to ensure that milk is served cold is important for food safety. Kids prefer cold milk and are more likely to consume milk when it is nice and cold. Milk should be stored at 41 ⁰F or below. Schools in need of equipment, such as milk coolers and milk dispensers, can ask their State agency about competitively awarded Sub-Grants for schools to purchase equipment (>$1,000 per item).
- Ensure Equitable Access to Milk's Nutrients: Students with lactose intolerance can experience discomfort when consuming regular milk and, as a result, not drink the milk offered at school. Certain racial and ethnic groups, including Hispanics/Latinxs, Blacks/African Americans, Asian, and American Indian populations, are more likely to be lactose intolerant. Schools may offer lactose-free and lactose-reduced low-fat and fat-free milk without the need of a written statement from a licensed medical authority or a parent or guardian. Lactose-free milk is milk without the lactose, so it provides the same 13 essential nutrients in each serving. Consider including information about the availability of lactose-free and lactose-reduced milk on your school nutrition website and menu in the languages that are spoken by parents and guardians of students at your school.
- Encourage Milk: Schools are using innovative methods, such as “smoothie and hot chocolate days” to offer milk in fun ways, particularly for older students. Smoothies that include 1 cup of milk per serving meet the milk requirement for a school meal. Learn more in Team Nutrition's Offering Smoothies as Part of Reimbursable School Meals. Warming chocolate milk and offering it at breakfast is also popular in the fall. Los Nietos School District in California warms the milk in stainless steel containers at 300 degrees for 10 minutes and keeps them in a food warmer until serving. Even though flavored milk includes added sugars, schools can balance these offerings by limiting other foods containing added sugars during the week. The Fuel Up To Play 60 program created by the National Football League (NFL) and National Dairy Council (NDC) includes a number of milk educational resources for K-12 schools.
- Plan for a Dynamic Food Environment: Schools facing milk supply chain disruptions due to COVID-19 may use the regulatory authority found in Federal procurement regulations at 2 CFR 200.320(c)(3), which allows operators to use the emergency noncompetitive proposal procurement method to negotiate a new one-year contract for school year 2021-22. There are also State Waivers for Meal Pattern Flexibilities including low-fat flavored milk. Schools should continue to work with their State agencies if issues arise in their milk procurement process.
As the school year kicks off, it’s time for a crash course in lunchbox food safety. Here’s a study guide to help you pass any food safety pop quizzes when packing lunches.
Clean—In a USDA Study, 97 percent of participants in a test kitchen received an F for failing to wash their hands properly. Use this hand washing cheat sheet to get an A+:
- Wet your hands with warm soapy water.
- Lather your hands by rubbing them together with soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails.
- Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds.
- Rinse your hands under clean water.
- Dry your hands using a clean towel.
Food Safety Online Resources
New Feature Alert for the Professional Standards Training Tracker Tool!
A new feature is now available on the Professional Standards Training Tracker Tool (PSTTT). Team Nutrition appreciates receiving your comments on the PSTTT and works continuously to enhance the user experience. After numerous requests to allow for bulk upload of employee user profiles, Team Nutrition is excited to announce this feature is now available to Director and Manager users of the PSTTT. You can now conveniently upload a spreadsheet using the template found within the tool to import multiple employee user profiles at one time.
Track your professional standards required training hours today using USDA’s free Professional Standards Training Tracker Tool!
Update on the Emergency Operation Cost Reimbursement Program (EOCRP) Funds
Emergency Operating Cost Reimbursement Program payments are expected to be disbursed to qualifying local program operators on September 27, 2021. You may utilize the Aids Register to check if the payment has been deposited into the ACH account the DPI has on file.
If your SFA has been contacted about completing an assurance statement related to these funds, please take care of this as soon as possible so we are able to disburse funds to your school food authority (SFA). Questions regarding EOCRP funds may be directed to email@example.com.
Reminder to Complete the Survey: FY 21 P-EBT Local Level Administrative Cost Grants (LLACGs)
SFAs that have not responded to the survey will receive a separate email from firstname.lastname@example.org with a link to the survey.
Please read carefully and share this communication with the business manager or school administrator at your school food authority (SFA). The Authorized Representative, as listed on your SFA’s school nutrition contract, should complete the survey.
Per federal regulations, funds are available to SFAs that, when not in a pandemic, operate the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. These funds are to be used to assist with the administrative costs associated with the Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) Program. These grant funds may be used to reimburse allowable expenses incurred between October 1, 2020 through September 30, 2021.
Funds need to be disbursed by the state agency by the end of March 2022. Further communications will be forthcoming about when you can expect to receive funds. This will occur after data has been validated.
To be eligible to receive funding, the expenses must be reasonable and allowable. Examples of allowable expenses include:
- Reporting student-level or school level learning models to the State;
- Designated staff to respond to parent requests and questions;
- Collecting and processing school meal applications specifically to establish eligibility for P-EBT; and
- Conducting Direct Certification runs.
Examples of unallowable costs are those expenses that are:
- Not necessary or responsible for the administration of the FY 2021 P-EBT Program; and
- Expenses already reimbursed under another Federal award.
If P-EBT expenses were already paid for with other federal dollars (such as ESSER funds) the SFA may reallocate those federal funds that your SFA already spent on P-EBT, starting from October 1, 2020 through present. If you choose to reallocate funds, the following needs to happen:
- Change coding in WUFAR; Source 717, Project 171 was assigned to this funding;
- Update fiscal ledger to reflect change of funding; and
- Have documentation available for actual time spent on the administration of P-EBT at the local level and be able to produce documentation if requested.
- P-EBT related expenses would need to be identified in private SFA’s internal accounting systems.
- Have documentation available for actual time spent on the administration of P-EBT and be able to produce documentation if requested.
USDA is allowing a simplified approach to distributing funds to School Food Authorities. The simplified method utilizes USDA's research into the cost structure of school meal programs in order to provide an estimate of the costs. This simplified approach follows the following funding chart:
|Number of P-EBT Eligible Children||Streamlined Funding Amount per Local Entity|
|Less than 1,000||$614|
The number of eligible children for P-EBT is based on the number of National School Lunch and School Breakfast Program free and reduced price eligible students served. SFAs may use any reference month within FY 2020 (October 2019-September 2020) that reflects the highest count of free and reduced price eligible students. For schools that are not Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) schools, this is determined by the number of free and reduced-price eligible students identified through direct certification and free and reduced-price meal applications. For schools that are CEP, this is determined by the total number of enrolled students since all students that attend a CEP school are eligible for P-EBT. In order to verify eligible students and provide accurate funding amounts, Authorized Representatives (as indicated on the School Nutrition Contract) from each SFA must complete survey. SFAs that have not yet completed the survey will receive a separate email about this. SFAs may choose not to elect the additional funding, but must complete the survey. The deadline to submit the survey is October 1, 2021.
Documentation must be available at the SFA indicating the number of free and reduced price eligible students that were used to determine the funding tier. Standard accounting practices require appropriate records to support costs and expenditures for program operations.
In all cases, time and effort documentation is required under the uniform grant guidance for all Federal programs. Please reference the DPI Time and Effort Reporting Guidance for more information. Additional information addressing time and effort reporting can also be found in the DPI Stimulus FAQ.
SSO Site Monitoring Requirements
Each year, SFAs are required to conduct monitoring visits of each school meal service site to do a self-assessment of the counting, claiming and general areas to ensure program integrity and accountability. The School Nutrition Team (SNT) has received clarification from the USDA that only SFAs with more than one SSO site are required to conduct monitoring visits. This includes SSO sites that your SFA may have elected to add to your Program Operations Application to service school or community sites outside of your SFA. The SSO Monitoring Form has been created to more accurately reflect operations under the SSO. The form must be completed annually by February 1 for all sites serving lunch and 50% of the sites serving breakfast. For SFAs that elected to waive the requirement to complete the monitoring onsite, the form does still need to be completed for each site through a desk audit. Completed monitoring forms do not need to submitted to the SNT, but should be maintained with your SSO paperwork.
This institution is an equal opportunity provider.
This is a communication from the WI Department of Public Instruction, School Nutrition Team.