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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 Service Directors/Managers
Child Nutrition Program Administration
Friday, March 22, 2024
Waiver Now Available for Poor Air Quality

The New York State Education Department (NYSED) has received State-level waiver authority from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for Summer Food Service Program Sponsors, in good standing, to operate approved outdoor meal sites without alternative indoor sites as non-congregate sites on days when the area is experiencing certain air quality advisories. Under this waiver, the threshold for determining when non- congregate meal service is allowed will be based on metrics developed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC), which are designed to help determine when to move activities indoors. Using these metrics, which equate to very unhealthy or hazardous air quality, sites may be approved for non-congregate meal service on days when the site’s zip code has an Air Quality Index (AQI) “purple” flag or higher, as indicated at is external). For days when air quality is a concern, but the purple flag threshold is not met, FNS recommends sponsors with outdoor sites consider the outdoor activity guidance developed by the EPA and the CDC. 


This targeted waiver is intended to ensure continuity of the meal service at outdoor sites on days when the daily AQI color is purple or higher and makes service of congregate meals impractical or dangerous. Approved outdoor sites must comply with congregate meal service requirements on all other days of operation. Outdoor sites with available alternative indoor sites may not use this waiver and should serve meals at the alternative site if the area is experiencing an AQI color of purple or higher. Sponsors changing meal times will ensure the following: 


a) Not change meal service times less than 24 hours in advance of the previously scheduled meal service time,  

b) Put up a printed notice or poster at the site indicating the change in meal service times to attendees,  

c) Alert the community through appropriate channels (such as school or neighborhood listservs), and  

d) Comply with any additional requirement(s) requested by the State agency.  


Sponsors must have a plan in place to ensure that meals are distributed only to parents or guardians of eligible children, and that duplicate meals are not distributed to any child. 

Other program requirements, including those pertaining to the number and type of meals that may be served each day and meal service times, continue to apply unless the State has obtained a separate waiver for these requirements. 

SFSP Sponsors that wish to utilize this waiver must complete this request form and submit it to your NYSED SFSP representative for review and approval prior to implementing non-congregate meal service during instances of poor air quality. 


Contact with any questions. 

USDA Nondiscrimination Statement

In accordance with federal civil rights law and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) civil rights regulations and policies, this institution is prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex (including gender identity and sexual orientation), disability, age, or reprisal or retaliation for prior civil rights activity.

Program information may be made available in languages other than English. Persons with disabilities who require alternative means of communication to obtain program information (e.g., Braille, large print, audiotape, American Sign Language), should contact the responsible state or local agency that administers the program or USDA’s TARGET Center at (202) 720-2600 (voice and TTY) or contact USDA through the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877-8339.

To file a program discrimination complaint, a Complainant should complete a Form AD-3027, USDA Program Discrimination Complaint Form which can be obtained online at:, from any USDA office, by calling (866) 632-9992, or by writing a letter addressed to USDA. The letter must contain the complainant’s name, address, telephone number, and a written description of the alleged discriminatory action in sufficient detail to inform the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights (ASCR) about the nature and date of an alleged civil rights violation. The completed AD-3027 form or letter must be submitted 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; or
  2. fax:
    (833) 256-1665 or (202) 690-7442; or
  3. email:

This institution is an equal opportunity provider.

Click here for Nondiscrimination Statement translations.