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July 26 -- The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), invites comments to OMB by August 25, 2023 regarding its proposed School Meals Operations (SMO) Study: Evaluation of the School-based Child Nutrition Programs.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) FNS is responsible for the administration of the Child Nutrition (CN) Programs—including the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), the School Breakfast Program (SBP), NSLP Seamless Summer Option (SSO), the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), and others—at the Federal level. To inform current and future policy decisions and effectively oversee these programs, FNS requires information on how these programs are operating. Although FNS oversees these programs, State agencies administer them through agreements with SFAs and other local entities that implement the programs at the local level.

Section 28(a) of the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act authorizes the USDA Secretary to conduct annual national performance assessments of the school meal programs. FNS plans to conduct this annual assessment through the SMO Study in SY 2023–2024. This notice covers the fourth year of the SMO Study, which will collect data from State and local agencies on the CN COVID–19 waivers as well as data on state and local CN Program operations during SY 2022–2023. Data collection will occur in SY 2023–2024.

The goal of data collection for the SMO Study is to respond to annual research questions on the following topics: (1) school participation, (2) student participation, (3) meal counting, (4) financial management, and (5) program integrity. This revision covers data collection for one school year, with revisions of surveys and administrative data collection instruments from previous years.

This information collection request is for a revision to the currently approved School Meals Operations Study: Evaluation of the School-based Child Nutrition Programs (SMO, OMB Control Number 0584-0607, expiration date 12/31/2024). This collection is necessary to provide up-to-date information about CN Program operations, including use of the COVID-19 CN nationwide waivers as required by the FFCRA. The annual data collected from this study allows FNS to describe and assess program operations, provide input for legislation and regulations on the CN Programs, and develop pertinent technical assistance (TA) and training for program staff at the State and local levels. This information is necessary for FNS to understand how recent and proposed legislation, regulations, policies, and initiatives change CN Program operations. Additionally, the data collection will meet States’ School Meals Operations Study statutory reporting requirements for the nationwide CN COVID-19 waiver approved by FNS pursuant to section 2202 of the FFCRA (pub. L. 116-127; Appendix A), and used in SY 2022-2023.

This study will help FNS obtain:

1. General descriptive data on the characteristics of CN Programs to inform the budget process and answer questions about topics of current policy interest;
2. Data on Program operations to identify potential topics for training and technical assistance for SFAs and State agencies (SAs) responsible for administering the CN Programs;
3. Administrative data to identify program trends and predictors;
4. Information on the use and effectiveness of the CN COVID–19 waivers.

Description of Respondents: State, local, and Tribal governments
Number of Respondents: 1,342.

FNS Child Nutrition research reports: https://fns-prod.azureedge.us/data-research?f%5B0%5D=program%3A9069
FNS submission to OMB: https://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/PRAViewICR?ref_nbr=202301-0584-001 Click on IC List for questionnaire, View Supporting Statement for technical documentation. Submit comments through this site.
FR notice inviting public comment: https://www.federalregister.gov/d/2023-15813
For AEA members wishing to submit comments, "A Primer on How to Respond to Calls for Comment on Federal Data Collections" is available at https://www.aeaweb.org/content/file?id=5806

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