Policy 5660 – Meal Charging and Prohibition Against Meal Shaming
Districts participating in the National School Lunch Program and/or School Breakfast Program must adopt a policy addressing meal charging and prohibiting meal shaming.
It is the District’s goal to provide students with access to nutritious no- or low-cost meals each school day and to ensure that a student whose parent/guardian has unpaid meal charges is not shamed or treated differently than a student whose parent/guardian does not have unpaid meal charges.
Unpaid meal charges place a large financial burden on the District. The purpose of this policy is to ensure compliance with federal requirements for the USDA Child Nutrition Program and to provide oversight and accountability for the collection of outstanding student meal balances to ensure that the student is not stigmatized, distressed, or embarrassed.
The intent of this policy is to establish procedures to address unpaid meal charges throughout the District in a way that does not stigmatize, distress, or embarrass students. The provisions of this policy pertain to regular priced reimbursable school breakfast, lunch and snack meals only. Charging of items outside of the reimbursable meals (a la carte items, adult meals, etc.) is expressly prohibited.
Access to Meals
- Free meal benefit–free eligible students will be allowed to receive a free breakfast and lunch meal of their choice each day. A la carte items or other similar items must be paid/prepaid.
- Reduced meal benefit eligible students will be allowed to receive a breakfast of their choice for $.25 and lunch of their choice for $.25 each day. A la carte items or other similar items must be paid/prepaid.
- Full pay students will pay for meals at the District’s published paid meal rate each day. The charge meals offered to students will be reimbursable meals available to all students, A la carte items or other similar items must be paid/prepaid.
Ongoing Food Service Staff Training
- Food Service Staff will be trained annually and throughout the year as needed on the procedures for managing meal charges using the State Education Department (SED) Webinar or the District’s training program.
- Food Service Staff training will include ongoing eligibility certification for free or reduced price meals.
- Parents/guardians will be notified by Food Service that a student’s meal card or account balance is exhausted within 3 days.
- Parents/guardians will be notified by Food Service that a student has accrued unpaid meal charges within 5 days of the charge, and then at least every 2 weeks thereafter until the balance is paid in full.
- Food Service Staff will communicate with parents/guardians with five or more unpaid meal charges to determine eligibility for free or reduced price meals.
- Food Service Staff will make two documented attempts to reach out to parents/guardians to complete a meal application in addition to the application and instructions provided in the school enrollment packet.
- Food Service Staff will contact the parent/guardian to offer assistance with completion of meal application to determine if there are other issues within the household causing the student to have insufficient funds, offering any other assistance that is appropriate.
Minimizing Student Distress
- Food Service Staff will not publicly identify or stigmatize any student in line for a meal or discuss any outstanding meal debt in the presence of any other students
- Students with unpaid meal charges will not be required to wear a wristband or handstamp, or to do chores or other work to pay for meals.
- Food Service Staff will not throw away a meal after it has been served because of the student’s inability to pay for the meal or because of previous unpaid meal charges.
- Food Service Staff will not take any action directed at a student to collect unpaid meal charges.
- Food Service Staff will deal directly with parents/guardians regarding unpaid meal charges.
Ongoing Eligibility Certification
- Food Service Staff will conduct direct certification through the New York Student Identification System (NYSSIS) or using SED Roster Upload at least monthly to maximize free eligibility.
- Food Service Staff will provide parents/guardians with free and reduced price application and instructions at the beginning of each school year in the school enrollment packet.
- If the District uses an electronic meal application, it will provide an explanation of the process in the school enrollment packet and instructions on how to request a paper application at no cost.
- The District will provide at least two additional free and reduced price applications throughout the school year to families identified as owing meal charges.
- The District will use its administrative prerogative to complete an application on a student’s behalf judiciously, and only after using exhaustive efforts to obtain a completed application from the student’s parent/guardian. The District will complete the application using only available information on family size and income that falls within approvable guidelines.
- he District will coordinate with the foster, homeless, migrant, and runaway coordinators at least monthly to certify eligible students.
Students/Parents/Guardians may pay for meals in advance via the district’s online payment platform or with a check payable to the GJSD Food Service Department. Further details are available on the District’s webpage at www.johnstownschools.org. Funds should be maintained in accounts to minimize the possibility that a student may be without meal money on any given day. Any remaining funds for a particular student will be carried over to the next school year.
To obtain a refund for a withdrawn or graduating student, a written or e-mailed request for a refund of any money remaining in the student’s account must be submitted. Students who are graduating at the end of the year will be given the option to transfer any remaining money to a sibling’s account through a written request.
Unclaimed funds must be requested within one school year. Unclaimed funds will then become the property of the District Food Service Program.
Revised 08/0717 Retroactive to 7/1/17