Policy #6595 Student Meal Charge Policy
The goal of the Western Suffolk BOCES is to provide students with access to nutritious low-cost meals, or free meals to qualifying students, each school day.
The Board of Education recognizes that, on occasion, students may forget to bring meal money to school. To ensure that students do not go hungry while at the same time promoting responsible student behavior and minimizing the fiscal burden to the agency, the Board will allow students who forget meal money to “charge” the cost of meals. This “charge” would be paid back at a later date subject to the terms outlined in Western Suffolk BOCES Meal Charge Procedures.
The intent of this policy is to ensure that there are appropriate and clearly defined procedures in place to address unpaid meal charges throughout Western Suffolk BOCES that do not stigmatize, distress or embarrass students. These those procedures pertain to regular priced school breakfast, lunch and snack (if applicable) meals only. This policy prohibits the charging of items outside of the reimbursable meals (a la carte items, adult meals, etc.).
Meal Charge Procedures will be developed according to State Education Department guidelines through a cooperative effort of the Chief Operating Officer, Child Nutrition Director, Director of Business and the Executive Directors of Career and Technical Education and Special Education, who will meet at least once per school year and at additional times if deemed necessary, to review and revise procedures as warranted. Said procedures will specifically address Free Meal Benefit, Reduced Meal Benefit, guidelines for Full Pay Students, parent/guardian notification of accounts in arrears; contact with students; refunds for withdrawn or graduating students; unclaimed funds; collection of balances owed; and other related topics. Parents/guardians will be provided with information about the Western Suffolk BOCES Meal Charge and that information will also be posted on the Western Suffolk BOCES website.
To safeguard the well-being of our students, the Board authorizes the Administration to investigate the situation more closely if a student is without meal money on a consistent basis and take further action as needed. If financial hardship exists, Administration will continue its practice of encouraging parents and families to apply for free or reduced price lunches for their child, if applicable.
Meal Charge Procedures
The goal of Western Suffolk BOCES is to provide student access to nutritious no- or low-cost meals each school day and to ensure that a pupil whose parent/guardian has unpaid school meal fees is not shamed or treated differently than a pupil whose parent/guardian does not have unpaid meal fees. The Board of Education Policy 6595 strictly prohibits meal shaming.
To insure 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, Western Suffolk BOCES will follow these procedures:.
The intent of this policy is to establish procedures to address unpaid meal charges throughout Western Suffolk BOCES 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. Western Suffolk BOCES 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.
PROCEDURES FOR CHARGES:
- 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 – Reduced eligible students will be allowed to receive a breakfast of their choice for $.25 and lunch of their choice for $.25 each 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 – 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 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.
PROCEDURES FOR STAFF TRAINING:
- Western Suffolk BOCES staff who have direct involvement with student meal preparation, delivery or charges will be trained annually and throughout the year as needed on the procedures for managing meal charges using the NYSED Webinar.
- Staff training will include ongoing eligibility certification for free or reduced price meals.
PROCEDURE FOR PARENT NOTIFICATION AND OUTREACH
- Parents/guardians will be notified that a student’s meal card or account balance is exhausted and has accrued meal charges within 5 days of the charge and then every week thereafter.
- Staff will communicate with parents/guardians with five or more meal charges 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 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.
PROCEDURES FOR CONTACT WITH STUDENTS
- To minimize student distress, Western Suffolk BOCES will not publicly identify or stigmatize any student on the line or discuss any outstanding meal debt in the presence of any other students.
- Students who incur meal charges will not be required to wear a wristband or handstamp, or to do chores or work to pay for meals.
- Schools 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 meal charges.
- Schools will not take any action directed at a pupil to collect unpaid school meal fees.
- Schools will deal directly with parents/guardians regarding unpaid school meal fees.
PROCEDURES REGARDING ONGOING ELIGIBILITY CERTIFICATION:
- School staff will conduct direct certification with NYSSIS or using NYSED Rosters.Upload to maximize free eligibility. NYSED provides updated direct certification data monthly.
- School staff will provide parents/guardians with free and reduced price application and instructions at the beginning of each school year in school enrollment packet.
- Schools will provide at least two additional free and reduced price applications throughout the school year to families identified as owing meal charges.
- 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 approvable guidelines.
- 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.
- Students/Parents/Guardians may pay for meals in advance via myschoolbucks.com or with a check payable to Western Suffolk BOCES Child Nutrition Program. (For more information about how WSBOCES uses myschoolbucks.com, click here.) 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 will be carried over to the next school year.
- Refunds for withdrawn, and graduating students; a written or e-mailed request for a refund of any money remaining in their account must be submitted. Students who are graduating at the end of the year will be given the option to transfer to a sibling’s account with a written request.
- Unclaimed Funds must be requested within one school year. Unclaimed funds will then become the property of Western Suffolk BOCES Child Nutrition Program.