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Comment Requested – Serious Deficiency Process in the CACFP & SFSP

May 9, 2024

Serious Deficiency Process Comment Requested

Based on feedback from our members and extensive research, NCA has developed model comments to help you provide feedback to USDA on their Proposed Rule for the Serious Deficiency Process in CACFP and SFSP.

How to Make Your Comments

With just 3 simple steps, your comments will be submitted directly to USDA! But first, be sure to read NCA’s summary of the proposed rule, check out a flow chart of the proposed process with NCA recommendations, or watch the on-demand webinar from USDA.

  1. Visit NCA’s Action Center where NCA provided comments will be automatically populated for you.
  2. Customize your comments by including your personal experience with Serious Deficiency and address the questions listed on the left-hand side of the page.
  3. Press “Send Message” and your comment will be submitted directly to USDA.

Deadline: Tuesday, May 21st

Customize Your Comments

It’s important for you to customize your comments based on your opinions and experience. USDA takes every unique comment into consideration. To help you personalize your message, consider including the following information:

  • What has your experience with the Serious Deficiency Process been?
  • What findings do you believe should rise to the level of a “Serious Management Problem”?
  • Will the proposed rule ensure that human error does not result in an operator being unjustly disqualified from the program?

Model Comments

As a member of the child nutrition community, I would like to thank you for asking for our feedback on the changes to the serious deficiency process as proposed in FNS-2024-0005-0001.

I appreciate the efforts by USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) to improve clarity and differentiate between a severe and/or systemic management problem and human error to better ensure that individuals and institutions are not wrongly disqualified from program participation. I applaud FNS’ focus on repeated technical assistance and training to support institution and operator success in the CACFP and SFSP.

I recognize the serious deficiency process can be a useful tool for program compliance and integrity, and believe the serious deficiency process:

  • should be used for truly serious and/or systemic management problems.
  • should be applied fairly and consistently across all States.
  • should NOT be used for findings resulting from inadvertent human error or unintentional administrative error, even if repeated.
  • should be focused on serious mismanagement, abuse, and fraud by institutions and facilities participating in the program.
  • should be limited to federal requirements and not state-specific requirements.

I support the serious deficiency process as proposed with these due process protections:

  • Operators are given the right to refute or contest that a finding rises to the level of a serious management problem at the point of determination.
  • USDA requires technical assistance and feedback be given throughout the Correction Action Plan process.
  • Operators are given the right to appeal a serious deficiency determination and not just the serious deficiency process.
  • USDA establishes a process for early removal from the NDL.

I support state agencies and sponsoring organizations using all five criteria to identify a serious management problem and its stated intentions to both create consistency across states and to assure only severe and/or systemic issues are addressed by the new serious deficiency process.

I support the proposed definition of good standing which means the status of a program operator that meets its program responsibilities, is current with its financial obligations, and if applicable, has fully implemented all corrective actions within the required period of time.

I support adding a 30-day timeline for sponsoring organizations to confirm full implementation of corrective action plans to ensure their program operators return to good standing.  I support adding a 90-day timeline for state agencies to confirm full implementation of corrective action plans to ensure institutions return to good standing. I support the review cycles outlined in the proposed rule for the path to full correction for institutions, day care homes and unaffiliated centers and SFSP.

I support suspension in the CACFP and SFSP for false and fraudulent claims with the addition of clear definitions for false and fraudulent claims to ensure that minor claiming mistakes and human error do not lead to suspension.

I support changing the serious deficiency process to include a path to full correction with the ability to vacate the serious management problem.

I support option 2 for the disqualification and termination of School Food Authorities, but only if this option is extended to all CACFP and SFSP institutions and operators. If CACFP and SFSP institutions and operators are found to be seriously deficient, State agencies should have the discretion to only place responsible individuals and responsible principals on the National Disqualified List (NDL), without placing the institution on the NDL. CACFP and SFSP operators are just as important as school food authorities in getting nutritious meals to children, therefore option 2 should be applicable to CACFP and SFSP operators as well.

I support the extension of the serious deficiency process to unaffiliated centers in the CACFP and to the SFSP. I support consistency in all serious deficiency processes and procedures across CACFP and SFSP.


You can also mail in your comments to Navneet Kaur Sandhu, Program Integrity and Innovation Division, USDA Food and Nutrition Service, 1320 Braddock Place, Alexandria, VA 22314.

For questions, contact