THE STATE EDUCATION DEPARTMENT / THE UNIVERSITY OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK / ALBANY, NY 12234
Office of P-20 Education Policy
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 2018-2019. 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;
- SP 33-2016, Extension notice: Requests for exemption from the School Meals’ Whole Grain-Rich Requirement for School year 2016-2017; and
- SP 32-2017, School Meal Flexibilities for School Year 2017-2018.
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 NSLP and SBP to grant an exemption from the regulatory whole grain-rich requirement in the meal programs, through SY 2018-2019, 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All temporary flexibilities approved by the Stage agency under this superseded memorandum may continue under the terms by which they were approved, through school year (SY) 2018-2019. Please note that if you received the whole grain-rich exemption for SY 2016-2017 and/or 2017-2018, this exemption will be extended to SY 2018-2019 and no further documentation is needed. If SFAs did not request an exemption in SY 2016-2017 or 2017-2018, 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 2018-2019, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
For more information on requests for exemption from the School Meals Whole Grain-Rich Requirement, please contact your Child Nutrition Representative.