Prohibition Against Meal Shaming

June 28, 2018

The following is the plan of the Florida Union Free School District (Florida UFSD) to prohibit meal shaming of students.

The Florida UFSD will train all applicable staff and ensure that the applicable staff fully understand how to properly implement the policy. The Florida UFSD will maintain records of this training including signatures of all trained employees verify the staff has received and understood the Prohibition Against Meal Shaming. The training will base on and include all of the guidance materials from NYSED website.

The following is the specific criteria that will be included in the plan, but is not limited to:

  • A statement that the school or school district shall provide the student with the student’s choice of a reimbursable meal, if the student requests one. Charging of items outside of the reimbursable meals (i.e., a la carte items, adult meals, etc.) is expressly prohibited.
  • A procedure to allow parents and guardians to provide written or email notification the Florida UFSD notifying the district that they, the parent/guardian do not want their child to charge a meal upon request.  However if the child requests a reimbursable meal, a the parent/guardian will be discretely contacted for permission to provide the child with a reimbursable meal.
  • Florida UFSD foodservice and school staff will be trained annually to ensure that the school’s policy is implemented correctly and consistently.
  • Parents or guardians will be provided assistance to establish eligibility for reduced price or free meals for eligible children via the districts website and Florida UFSD calendar mailed to every household at the start of each school year
  • The Florida UFSD will notify all parent or guardian that their child’s account balance is exhausted and unpaid meal charges are due will be done by post, email and telephone. The notification may include a repayment schedule, but the school cannot charge any interest or fees in connection with the meals charged.  Convenience fees associated with the use of the school’s secure on-line payment system, i.e. MySchoolBucks, continue to be allowable.

Florida UFSD will continue its outreach communication procedures, website, hardcopies of menus sent home, to encourage eligible families to enroll children for free or reduced price meals that includes a process for determining eligibility when a student owes money for five or more meals, wherein the SFA shall:

  • Florida UFSD will make every attempt to determine if a student is directly certified and eligible for free meals.
  • In addition to sending home the income application at the beginning of the year, make two additional attempts to encourage the parent or guardian to complete an income application on behalf of the child.
  • Contact the parent or guardian to offer assistance to complete the application and to determine if there are other factors of why the child does not have sufficient food or funds to purchase a meal and offer other assistance as appropriate

The Florida UFSD will follow procedures designed to decrease student distress or embarrassment that identifies the following prohibited actions:

  • Announcing or publicizing the names of children with unpaid meal charges
  • Sending clearly marked notices home with children who have an outstanding balance
  • Using hand stamps, wristbands, stickers, or other physical markers to identify children with outstanding meal charges
  • Requiring children with unpaid meal charges to do chores or other work
  • Throwing a child’s meal in the trash
  • Take any action directed at the student to collect unpaid meal charges
  • Discuss any outstanding meal debt in the presence of other students
  • Serving alternate meals (i.e., cheese sandwich)
  • Using a debt collector

The Florida UFSD will establish a process to ensure all eligible students are identified as eligible for free or reduced price meals by:

  • Maximizing the use of Statewide Direct Certification (DCMP) by accessing the DCMP data monthly and each time a new student is registered. Florida UFSD  SFAs will consider the effective date of eligibility for free school meals benefits to be the date of the automated data matching file which first identifies the child as eligible.
    Florida UFSD will provide a copy of the income application in each student’s enrollment packet and/ or include written instructions of how to access and complete an on-line version of the application or to request a paper application at no cost. Clear instructions for parents/guardians that they are not required to complete the application if they have already been or are eligible to be directly certified.
  • Encourage families to apply for free and reduced price meals and provide materials in a language and at a reading level families can understand. SFAs may establish the date of an application’s submission as the effective date of eligibility.
  • Establish procedures to coordinate with the school liaisons to ensure all migrant, foster, homeless and runaway children are immediately certified for free meals.
  • In extenuating circumstances, the SFA may complete an application on behalf of a child given sufficient cause and backup documentation supporting the child’s eligibility. See federal regulations 7 CFR, Part 245.6 (d) for additional guidance regarding administrative prerogative.

Additionally:

  • The Florida UFSD SFAs WILL provide 30 day carryover of eligibility for free and reduced price students from the previous school year during the first 30 operating days of a new school year, or until a new eligibility determination is made, whichever is first.
  • Students transferring from a Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) or Provision 2 (P2) participating school to a non-participating school WILL be provided 30 days free eligibility or until a new eligibility determination is made, whichever comes first.
  • Florida UFSD SFAs will continue to accept the free and reduced price eligibility from transfer students.
  • The Florida UFSD does not intend to allow for the unlimited accrual of debt. The Florida UFSD SFA has established clear procedures for the collection of unpaid meal charges.

The Florida UFSD SFA procedures are directed to the parent or guardian and include provide repayment options:

  • After meal charges have accrued over the Florida UFSD, staff contacts the parent/guardian by email and telephone and post.  The posted mail will include a free/reduce application and information about assistance to complete the application for meal benefits. The child will continue to be offered a reimbursable meal.
  • If the parent/guardian does not respond to the foodservice staffs request for repayment of the unpaid meal charges, the school building principal/administration will contact the family via post, email and telephone.
  • The child will continue to be offered a regular reimbursable meal. The posted mail will include a free/reduce application and information about assistance to complete the application for meal benefits. The child will continue to be offered a reimbursable meal.
  • If the parent/guardian does not respond to the school building principal/administration request for repayment of the unpaid meal charges, the school district treasurer/school business office will contact the family via post, email and telephone. The posted mail will include a free/reduce application and information about assistance to complete the application for meal benefits. The child will continue to be offered a reimbursable meal.
  • The Florida UFSD SFA will not use a debt collector as defined in section eight hundred three of the federal consumer credit protection act, 15 U.S.C. Sec. 1692a to engage in collection activities on behalf of the SFA.   The SFA must also ensure that the SFA’s non-profit foodservice account is reimbursed for all outstanding meal charges by no later than June 30th of each school year
  • Funds used to reimburse the foodservice account will taken from the non-federal general fund. All funds recouped after the non-profit foodservice account is made whole will be deposited into the general fund or other account used to replenish the school foodservice account.
  • The Florida UFSD SFA will maintain documentation to substantiate the transfer of funds for the equivalent of all unpaid meal debt to the school food service account each year.