SCHOOL AND SUMMER MEALS
CHILD NUTRITION RESOURCES
If you need assistance during this time, visit our directory of resources for information about eligibility for various public programs, food assistance, the increased Child Tax Credit and more. Click here. As the COVID-19 vaccine is distributed, find out how you can access a vaccine with our COVID-19 Vaccine Resource Hub.
SCHOOL MEALS DURING COVID-19
At the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year, many schools moved to a virtual learning model. Some schools created a hybrid learning model allowing alternate days when children could attend school to reduce the numbers of children together in a classroom. Many other schools have faced closures due to COVID-19 outbreaks. Virtual learning has allowed children to continue their education but many children have lost access to the school breakfasts and lunches that support their health and well-being. Advocates, school districts and child program providers continue to assist families who rely on free and reduced-price school meals to keep hunger at bay. Many schools are operating the Seamless Summer Option, which allows all children to eat for free. Others continue to package meals that can be picked up or distributed to families who need the support. Pandemic-EBT (P-EBT) was extended by Congress and will continue to be an important support to families until September 2021.
Many schools continue to provide pick-up meals and some delivery. To find out where schools are delivering meals visit this site locator: School Meal Finder
Families of children who receive free or reduced price school meals or attend a Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) schools may be eligible for Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) benefits to help alleviate missed school meals during the 2020-2021 school year for children participating in virtual learning and for school closures caused by COVID-19. No application is necessary. Learn more about P-EBT here.
Call the TDHS hotline at 1-833-496-0661 and select option 3 for information about receiving your benefit.
The National School Breakfast Program provides Tennessee students with an affordable, nutritious meal to start the day. Breakfast is available to low-income students at no or reduced cost. School breakfast improves students’ attention, behavior, and health.
Additional Breakfast Resources
PROGRAM CHANGES TO KNOW ABOUT
There are multiple waivers in effect for Tennessee’s National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, and Child and Adult Care Food Program. Waivers for the school meal programs allow states to modify program operations to ultimately increase their capacity to feed more children. Because of school closures, social distancing and other impacts caused by the pandemic, many nutrition programs are not able to operate as normal.
- Ensuring Access to the Child Nutrition Programs in the Event of School Closures: Click here
- Tennessee Department of Education: Click here
WHAT ARE SUMMER MEALS?
The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) provides free nutritious meals and snacks to low-income children (ages 18 and under) during June, July and August when school is not in session. This federally funded nutrition program helps fill the nutrition gap for low income children who depend on free or reduced-price school lunch and breakfast during the school year.
FIND SUMMER MEALS NEAR YOU
Meals and snacks are served at community sites across the state, including schools, community centers, parks, and libraries. You can find summer meal sites in your area by:
- Visiting kidsfoodfinder.org
- Calling 1-866-3-HUNGRY or 1-877-8-HAMBRE
- Texting “Summer Meals” to 97779
SUMMER MEALS AND COVID-19
SFSP also operates during the school year during unanticipated school closures and is currently filling a crucial role during the COVID-19 pandemic as schools shut down and operate remotely to promote social distancing.
If you are a summer meal sponsor, you can provide meals to children during the pandemic. Learn more and contact DHS by email at TNSFSP.DHS@tn.gov or by phone at (615) 313-4749.
The USDA has issued a number of waivers to ensure that sponsors in good standing can continue to provide meals to children while adapting to the restrictions and needs of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. These waivers include:
- Non-Congregate Feeding: Effective through June 30, 2021, sponsors can serve to-go meals or provide meal delivery to participants. Sponsors are encouraged to utilize these options and avoid large gatherings for food distribution. Sponsors can begin operating under this waiver immediately and do not need to submit paperwork to TN DHS for approval.
- Meal Service Time Waiver: Effective through June 30, 2021, sponsors are no longer required to serve their meals at a certain time apart from one another. Sponsors may now serve up to a week’s worth of meals at one time. Sponsors may begin operating under this waiver immediately and do not need to submit paperwork to TN DHS for approval.
- Parent Pick-Up: Effective through June 30, 2021, parents and guardians can pick up meals on behalf of their eligible children.
- Area Eligibility Waiver: Effective through June 30, 2021, states can continue operating open summer meals sites in areas where less than 50% of the children in the area qualify for free or reduced-price meals.
If you have questions about what these waivers mean for your community or you want to get involved, please email Signe Anderson at email@example.com.
- Find a site in your area and share this site locator with others: Site Locator
- You can provide meals if you are a Summer Meals Sponsor. Contact DHS to get signed up. Email: TNSFSP.DHS@tn.gov
Phone: (615) 313-4749
- Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to share stories about your meal site that is operating during the pandemic.
- USDA SFSP FAQ: Click here