3547 Meal Charge Policy

Adoption Date:  11/01/2018
3000 - Business and Non-Instructional 
Non-Instructional Operations 
3547 Meal Charge Policy

I. Purpose
The goal of the Lakeland Central School District is to provide student access to nutritious no-or low-cost meals each school day and to ensure that a student whose parent/guardian has unpaid school meal fees is not shamed or treated differently than a student whose parent/guardian does not have unpaid meal fees.

Unpaid charges place a large financial burden on our school. The purpose of this policy is to insure compliance with federal requirements for the USDA Child Nutrition Program and, 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 provisions of this policy pertain to regular priced reimbursable school breakfast, lunch and snack meals only. The District provides this policy as a courtesy to those students in the event that they forget or lose their money.  Charging of items outside of the reimbursable meals (a la carte items, adult meals, etc.) is expressly prohibited.

II. Policy

  • Free Meal Benefit - Free eligible students will be allowed to receive a free breakfast and lunch each day.   A la carte purchases must be paid/prepaid.
  • Reduced Meal Benefit – Reduced eligible students will be allowed to receive a breakfast or lunch of their choice at no charge every day. The charge meals offered to students will be reimbursable meals available to all students, unless the student’s parent or guardian has specifically provided written permission to the school to withhold a meal.  A la carte items or other similar items must be paid/prepaid.
  • Full Pay Students – Full Pay Students - Students will pay for meals at the school’s published paid meal rate each day.  The charge meals offered to students will be reimbursable meals available to all students, unless the student’s parent/guardian has specifically provided written permission to the school to withhold meals.  A la carte items or other similar items must be paid/prepaid.
  • Parents/Guardians are responsible for meal payment to the Food Service Program. The District will make resources available to assist parents in monitoring their children’s school food service accounts at no charge via www.myschoolbucks.com.  Parents/guardians are responsible to provide the District with their preferred contact information to assist the District in notifying them of their outstanding debt.  Parents/guardians will be notified that a student’s meal account or account balance is exhausted and has accrued meal charges within five days of the charge and then every week thereafter.
  • Parents/Guardians will be contacted when five or more meals charges have occurred to determine eligibility for free or reduced price meals.  School 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.  School staff will contact the parent/guardian to offer assistance with completion of the meal application to determine if there are other issues within the household causing the child to have insufficient funds, offering any other assistance that is appropriate.
  • School staff will not publicly identify or stigmatize any student on the line or discuss any outstanding meal debt in the presence of any other students.  Furthermore, the District will deal directly with the parents/guardians in regards to unpaid meal charges.  No action will be directed at a student at any time.
  • Meal shaming (or student distress) is strictly prohibited.  The District will not take away a meal after it has been served because of the student’s inability to pay for the meal or because of meal charges owed.  Students will not be required to wear a wristband or handstamp or to do chores or work to pay for meals.
  • Students/Parents/Guardians may pay for meals in advance via www.myschoolbucks.com or with a check payable to the Lakeland School Lunch Fund. Further details are available on our webpage at www.lakelandschools.org.  Funds should be maintained in accounts to minimize the possibility that a child may be without meal money on any given day. Any remaining funds for a particular student may/will be carried over to the next school year.
  • Refunds for withdrawn and graduating students will be made upon receipt of a written (including by email) request for a refund of any money remaining in their account.  Parents/guardians of students that are graduating at the end of the year will be given the option to transfer any remaining balance from the graduating student to a sibling’s account.
  • Unclaimed Funds must be requested within one school year. Unclaimed funds will then become the property of the Lakeland Central School District Food Service Program.
  • Balances Owed: Collection of owed balances will follow the policies and procedures set by the school.

III. Procedures:

  1. The District’s Meal Charge Policy and resources will be provided to families at the beginning of each school year, and to new students registered during the school year.  They will also be available through the District website at www.lakelandschools.org.
  2. Information regarding free and reduced priced meals for families in need will be provided at the beginning of the school year, when new students register for school, and online at www.lakelandschools.org. This information will also contain the name of and contact information for a District employee for any families that need assistance in completing the application.
  3. Students who do not have breakfast or lunch or money to purchase these meals will be provided a reimbursable meal of their choice.  These meals will be considered “meal charges” and will be charged to the student account as outstanding debt. 
  4. Items that cannot be charged to student accounts as outstanding debt include a la carte items, extra entrees and adult purchases.
  5. The Food Service Department will send home notices through emails weekly for all student accounts that have a low balance.  A low balance is considered to be a balance of $5.00 or less.  A parent must have a valid email address on file to receive low balance notifications.
  6. The Food Service Department will also send home notices of meals charged (accounts that have a negative balance) on a weekly basis through emails.  Families that do not have a valid email address will receive phone calls or letters on a weekly basis.
  7. The Food Service Department will monitor student accounts and outstanding debt on a regular basis. 
  8. The Food Service Department will work with families on a regular basis to collect outstanding debt and set up payment plans if necessary.
  9. The Food Service Department will conduct direct certification with NYSSIS or using  NYSED Roster Upload to maximize free eligibility.  NYSED provides updated direct certification data monthly.
  10. Schools will use administrative prerogative judiciously, only after using exhaustive efforts to obtain a completed application from the parent/guardian only with available information on family size and income that falls within the approvable guidelines.
  11. Schools will coordinate with the foster, homeless, migrant, runaway coordinators to certify eligible students.  School liaisons required for homeless, foster, and migrant students shall coordinate with the nutrition department to make sure such students receive free school meals, in accordance with federal law.
  12. The District will provide ongoing staff training annually and throughout the year as needed on the procedures for managing meal charges.  This training includes ongoing eligibility certification for free or reduced price meals.
  13. At the end of the school year, the Food Service Department will transfer money from one child’s account to another within the same family to pay any outstanding debt owed.
  14. Upon District request, the School Attorney shall review the delinquent accounts of parents/ guardians of students and shall correspond with the parents/guardians about arrangements for repayment in an attempt to avoid the necessity of commencing legal proceedings to recover past due monies.
  15. The Food Service Department will carry all delinquent debt (unpaid meal charges) as an account receivable for a period of no more than one year after the end of the school year the debt was incurred.
  1. Any delinquent debt that has not been paid after one year following the school year the debt was incurred will be considered bad debt.  Bad debt will be paid through the general fund and/or through donations made by outside sources.

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