SSO Program FAQ
USDA Seamless Summer Option (SSO) Program FAQ
Why is UCFSD participating in this program?
The USDA Seamless Summer Option (SSO) waiver program allows us to provide meals to ALL students regardless of income at no cost. Children are some of the most vulnerable during this pandemic, even those who may live in an affluent community. Their family’s resources may be taxed in ways we are not entitled to ask about but do not yet qualify them for the free and reduced price program.
What schools are receiving this program?
The USDA has extended the SSO to all schools in the country recognizing that these are unprecedented times. Many families across the nation, including within our own community, have seen a drop in their income. Individual family hardships often go unseen by those around them for a variety of reasons.
Do UCFSD students need free meals?
While true that the UCFSD community are some of the wealthiest based on median household income, 50% are above that median and 50% are below the median by definition. Yes, there is the normal free and reduced price meals program in place, for which approximately 8% of our student population qualifies. However, even those who are qualified for this program have been reluctant to take advantage of the resources offered. Perhaps due to pride or embarrassment, we do not know. With the SSO waiver, every student can be offered these resources and no one will stand out as being in need if they choose to avail themselves of the meals.
How does the program work?
The SSO program allows all students to receive a free breakfast and free lunch each instructional day. It is important to know the District is only reimbursed for the students that participate. If 100 breakfasts are served to 100 students, the district is reimbursed for 100 meals. A family can make the decision not to participate and provide their own breakfast at home and packed lunch to their child(ren).
What happens to the excess food?
There is no “excess” food that could or should be donated to food banks. Food and materials are purchased for the meals prepared. Any meals prepared that are not taken on a given day can be re-offered the following day. Expiration dates are monitored closely so as not to waste any food resources. Last Spring when the entire State was caught with the sudden stay-at-home order on March 13, 2020, UCFSD did in fact donate a significant amount of food to local food banks that would otherwise expire before any foreseen re-opening.
What impacts will this have on staffing?
The Food Service staff of UCFSD have been the hardest hit of our staff as their services are only needed if students are provided meals. Virtual learning and the current hybrid learning models do not provide for an in-school meal service opportunity. Under the SSO waiver for both secondary and elementary students, UCFSD Food Service staff members are able to return to the workforce. It is expected that almost all of the department staff who have been furloughed will be called back for their normal hours per week in order to manage and prepare these meals.
How does this program impact our taxpayers?
Like any grant or assistance provided by the State or Federal government, if UCFSD does not diligently attempt to obtain and use these resources then we are failing our taxpayers. Meal counts and free and reduced price data are used by grant agencies to drive other grant dollars to the local school districts, UCFSD included. By participating in the SSO waiver for those willing to take the meals, UCFSD is helping to put staff back to work, provide food resources to the vulnerable and drive potential additional dollars to the District that can help relieve the burden on our taxpayers as well.