Charging School Meals

Adoption date:  August 8, 2007
Revised:  December 21, 2017

The Board of Education recognizes that on occasion, students may not have enough funds for a meal.  To ensure that students do not go hungry, but also to promote responsible student behavior and minimize the fiscal burden to the district, the Board will allow students who do not have enough funds to “charge” the cost of meals to be paid back at a later date subject to the terms in this policy.
To comply with State guidelines and maintain a system for accounting for charged meals, regarding both full and reduced-price meals, the Board shall:

  1. Allow only regular reimbursable meals to be charged, excluding extras, à la carte items, and snacks (“competitive foods”);
  2. Limit the number of charges to 3 per student.  Until these three (3) charges are paid in full, no new meals can be charged.  However, any student with charged meals remaining unpaid at the end of the school year may not charge meals the next school year until the previous charges are paid;
  3. Use a computer-generated point of sale system, which identifies and records all meals as well as collects repayments; and
  4. Discreetly notify parents of student account balances.

Students eligible for reduced priced meals shall not be denied a reimbursable meal, even if they have accrued a negative balance from other cafeteria purchases.  No student with unpaid charges will be prohibited from purchasing food if they have money that day.  If a student charges a reimbursable meal, the student may not purchase “à la carte” items that day.
If the District suspects that a student may be abusing this policy, written notice will be provided to the parent that if he/she continues to abuse this policy, the privilege of charging meals will be refused. If the District suspects that a student may be abusing this policy, written notice will be provided to the parent that if he/she continues to abuse this policy, the privilege of charging meals will be refused. Such a refusal is not considered to be a violation of any state or federal laws concerning school food programs.  However before denying any student a meal, the District shall carefully consider the negative consequences of such an action. Refusing very young children or students with disabilities is prohibited by the Board.
Parents shall be discretely notified of student account balances.  When a student’s account balance falls to -$10.00 and whenever a meal is charged, the district will discretely notify the student and the parent/guardian of the balance.  This notification will continue regularly until the account is replenished.  Parents must repay all unpaid charges remaining at the end of the year or before their child leaves the district, whichever occurs first.
The district shall discretely notify parents of students regularly with negative balances of the application process for free and/or reduced price meals.  If a parent regularly fails to provide meal money and does not qualify for free or reduced price meals, the district may take other activities as appropriate, including notifying the local department of social services if neglect is suspected.
The school district shall notify all parents/guardians in writing on an annual basis at the start of the school year and to families transferring during the year, outlining the requirements of this policy.  The policy shall also be published in appropriate school and district publications.  All staff involved in implementing and enforcing this policy shall also be notified of these requirements and their responsibilities.

Unpaid Meal Charges and Debt Collection

Unpaid meal charges are a financial burden to the district and taxpayers and can negatively affect the school program.  Unpaid meal charges shall be considered “delinquent” as per the district’s accounting practices.  The district shall attempt to recover unpaid meal charges before the end of the school year, but may continue efforts into the next school year.  Students with unpaid meal charges at the start of the year may not be able to charge meals.  The district shall notify parents/guardians of unpaid meal charges at regular intervals, and may engage in collection activities.  The district shall offer repayment plans, and may take other actions that do not result in harm or shame to the child, until unpaid charges are paid.

Account Balances

Remaining funds will be carried over to the next school year.  When students leave the district or graduate, the district will attempt to contact the parent/guardian to return remaining funds. Parents/guardians may request that funds be transferred to other students (e.g., siblings, unpaid accounts).  All transfer requests must be in writing.  Unclaimed funds remaining after six months shall be absorbed by the school meal account.


Staff members are allowed to purchase food from the district’s food services.  However, all purchases must be paid for at the point of sale (cash, payment account).  Staff members are not allowed to charge meals to be repaid later.

Cross-ref: 8520, Free and Reduced Price Meal Services


  • 42 USC §1779 (Child Nutrition Act of 1966)
  • 42 USC §§1758(f)(1); 1766(a) (National School Lunch Act)
  • 2 CFR §200.426 (accounting for debt in federal programs)
  • 7 CFR §§210.9 210.12; 210.19; 220.13; 245.5 (accounting in federal school meal programs)
  • Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (Public Law 111-296), §143
  • USDA Report to Congress, Review of Local Policies on Meal Charges and Provision of Alternate Meals, June 2016,
  • Unpaid Meal Charges: Local Meal Charge Policies, USDA FNS Memo SP 46-2016 (07/08/16),
  • Unpaid Meal Charges: Guidance and Q&A, USDA FNS Memo SP 57-2016 (09/16/16),
  • Unpaid Meal Charges: Guidance and Q&A, USDA FNS Memo SP 23-2017 (03/23/17),
  • Unpaid Meal Charges: Clarification on Collection of Delinquent Meal Payments, USDA FNS Memo SP 47-2016 (07/08/16),
  • Overcoming the Unpaid Meal Challenge – Proven Strategies from Our Nation’s Schools, USDA FNS Guidance Document (May 2017),
  • Student Meal Charge Policy, NYSED Guidance Memo, (5/30/17),