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Office of P-20 Education Policy
Child Nutrition Program Administration
89 Washington Avenue, Room 375 EBA, Albany, NY 12234
Phone: (518) 473-8781 Fax: (518) 473-0018

School Food Authorities
Paula Tyner-Doyle, Coordinator
Thursday, May 11, 2017
Extension Notice: Requests for Exemption from the School Meals’ Whole Grain-Rich Requirement for School Years 2017-2018

This memorandum extends the ability, previously authorized by section 751 of Public Law 113-234, for school food authorities (SFAs) to request exemptions from the whole grain rich requirements in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP) through SY 2017-2018. This memorandum supersedes the following previously issued memorandum:

  • SP 20-2015, Requests for Exemption from the School Meals’ Whole Grain Rich Requirement for School Years 2014-2015 and 2015-2016.
  • SP33-2016, Extension notice: Requests for exemption from the School Meals’ Whole Grain-Rich Requirement for School year 2016-2017.

In Section 733 of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016 (Public Law 114-113), Congress directed the Secretary of Agriculture to allow State agencies that administer the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP) to grant an exemption from the regulatory whole grain-rich requirement in the meal programs, through SY 2017-2018, to a School Food Authority (SFA) that demonstrates hardship in procuring compliant whole grain-rich products that are acceptable to students. The provision requires that SFAs that are approved for an exemption from the current whole grain-rich requirement must continue, at a minimum, to meet the whole grain rich requirement that was in effect for the SY 2013-2014.

All temporary flexibilities approved by the Stage agency under this superseded memorandum may continue under the terms by which they were approved, through school year (SY) 2017-2018. Please note that if you received the whole grain-rich exemption for SY 2016-2017, this exemption will be extended to SY 2017-2018 and no further documentation is needed.  If SFAs did not request an exemption in SY 2016-2017 they must complete the Whole Grain-Rich Exemption Request Form if they serve grain products that are not whole grain-rich. 

The progression to offer all whole grain-rich grains in school meals represents a significant transition for industry, program operators, and students. The authority provided to the Secretary and State agencies in Public Law 114-1 offers State agencies the opportunity to provide SFAs that demonstrate hardship in procuring specific whole grain-rich products the ability to seek exemptions for one or more products.  Therefore, for the remainder of SY 2017-2018, we will approve an SFA’s exemption request for specific products if the SFA can demonstrate hardship(s) in procuring, preparing, or serving compliant whole grain-rich product(s) that are accepted by students. The temporary exemptions are allowed for any type of grain product(s), (e.g., pasta, bread, brown rice, etc.) and for one or more different products.

SFAs granted an exemption must comply with the SY 2013-2014 requirement to offer at least half of the grains as whole grain-rich products. SFAs that receive an exemption will be considered compliant with the whole grain-rich requirements during an Administrative review if their grain offerings are consistent with the exemption granted by the State agency and at least half of the grains offered weekly are whole grain-rich.

SFAs must indicate the hardship(s) incurred in meeting the whole grain-rich requirement and provide a written justification or supporting documentation (e.g., production records, meal count records, financial statements, etc.) to demonstrate hardship(s) in procuring, preparing, or serving whole grain-rich products. SFAs must also provide a detailed list of the grain product or group of grain products the SFA is seeking an exemption for and the enriched product that will replace it.  Please submit the Whole Grain-Rich Exemption Request Form.  If further documentation is to be submitted for justification, send it via email to SFAs will receive an email indicating that their exemption request has been approved.

Hardships may include but are not limited to:

  • Financial hardship – The SFA demonstrates a significant drop in meal counts after the whole grain-rich product(s) was offered, or experienced a significant cost increase when procuring whole grain-rich products.
  • Limited Product Availability – The SFA does not have access to compliant whole grain-rich products(s) in the local market and would like to offer enriched grain item(s) temporarily.
  • Unacceptable Product Quality - The whole grain-rich products offered by the SFA did not retain the desired texture or lost palatability during the typical holding time.
  • Poor Student Acceptability - The whole grain-rich product(s) offered by the SFA received significant negative student/parent feedback or there was increased plate waste of that menu item when a whole grain-rich product was offered multiple times and over a sustained period.
  • Other - The SFA provides an explanation of the hardship incurred prompting them to seek an exemption.

The “Whole Grain Resource for National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs” provides information to help program operators identify foods that meet the whole grain-rich criteria, and offers suggestions for incorporating whole grain-rich foods into school menus.

Click here for Questions and Answers regarding the exemption for School Meals Whole Grain-Rich Requirement.

For more information on requests for exemption from the School Meals Whole Grain-Rich Requirement, please contact Michele Beaver at 518-473-8781.

USDA Nondiscrimination Statement

In accordance with Federal civil rights law and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) civil rights regulations and policies, the USDA, its Agencies, offices, and employees, and institutions participating in or administering USDA programs are prohibited from discriminating based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability, age, or reprisal or retaliation for prior civil rights activity in any program or activity conducted or funded by USDA. 

Persons with disabilities who require alternative means of communication for program information (e.g. Braille, large print, audiotape, American Sign Language, etc.), should contact the Agency (State or local) where they applied for benefits. Individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing or have speech disabilities may contact USDA through the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877-8339.  Additionally, program information may be made available in languages other than English.

To file a program complaint of discrimination, complete the USDA Program Discrimination Complaint Form, (AD-3027) found online at:, and at any USDA office, or write a letter addressed to USDA and provide in the letter all of the information requested in the form. To request a copy of the complaint form, call (866) 632-9992. Submit your completed form or letter to USDA by:

(1)     mail: U.S. Department of Agriculture
         Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights
         1400 Independence Avenue, SW
         Washington, D.C. 20250-9410;

(2)     fax: (202) 690-7442; or

(3)     email:

This institution is an equal opportunity provider.

Los demás programas de asistencia nutricional del FNS, las agencias estatales y locales, y sus beneficiarios secundarios, deben publicar el siguiente Aviso de No Discriminación:

De conformidad con la Ley Federal de Derechos Civiles y los reglamentos y políticas de derechos civiles del Departamento de Agricultura de los EE. UU. (USDA, por sus siglas en ingles), se prohíbe que el USDA, sus agencias, oficinas, empleados e instituciones que participan o administran programas del USDA discriminen sobre la base de raza, color, nacionalidad, sexo, discapacidad, edad, o en represalia o venganza por actividades previas de derechos civiles en algún programa o actividad realizados o financiados por el USDA.

Las personas con discapacidades que necesiten medios alternativos para la comunicación de la información del programa (por ejemplo, sistema Braille, letras grandes, cintas de audio, lenguaje de seas americano, etc.), deben ponerse en contacto con la agencia (estatal o local) en la que solicitaron los beneficios. Las personas sordas, con dificultades de audición o discapacidades del habla pueden comunicarse con el USDA por medio del Federal Relay Service [Servicio Federal de Retransmisión] al (800) 877-8339. Además, la información del programa se puede proporcionar en otros idiomas.

Para presentar una denuncia de discriminación, complete el Formulario de Denuncia de Discriminación del Programa del USDA, (AD-3027) que está disponible en linea en: y en cualquier oficina del USDA, o bien escriba una carta dirigida al USDA e incluya en la carta toda la información solicitada en el formulario. Para solicitar una copia del formulario de denuncia, llame al (866) 632-9992. Haga llegar su formulario lleno o carta al USDA por:

(1)     correo: U.S. Department of Agriculture
         Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights
         1400 Independence Avenue, SW
         Washington, D.C. 20250-9410;

(2)     fax: (202) 690-7442; o

(3)     correo electró

Esta institución es un proveedor que ofrece igualdad de oportunidades.