School Board Policy 534 - Unpaid Meal Charges

ADOPTED: MAY 9, 2022


I. Purpose

The purpose of this policy is to ensure that students receive healthy and nutritious meals through the school district’s nutrition program and that school district employees, families, and students have a shared understanding of expectations regarding meal charges.  The policy seeks to allow students to receive the nutrition they need to stay focused during the school day and minimize identification of students with insufficient funds to pay for school meals as well as to maintain the financial integrity of the school nutrition program.

II. Payment of Meals

All meal purchases are to be prepaid by cash, check, or online payment system before meal service begins.

A. The district will make meals available to all students regardless of account balance. In agreement with  Minn. Stat. § 124D.111, students who qualify for free or reduced-price meals will be served regardless of a prior outstanding balance.

B. A student with an outstanding meal charge debt will be allowed to purchase a meal and their parent/guardian will be expected to cover the unpaid debt. 

C. When a student has a negative account balance, the student will not be allowed to charge an a la carte item.

D. If a parent or guardian chooses to send in one payment that is to be divided between sibling accounts, the parent or guardian must specify how the funds are to be distributed to the students’ accounts.  Funds may not be transferred between sibling accounts unless permission is received from the parent or guardian.

III. Low or Negative Account Balances - Notification

A. The school district will make reasonable efforts to notify families when meal account balances are low or fall below zero.

B. Families will be notified of an outstanding negative balance once the negative balance reaches two charged meals. Communication methods for notifying families may include automated calling system, email, or letter.

C. Reminders for payment of outstanding student meal balances will not demean or stigmatize any student participating in the school lunch program.

IV. Unpaid Meal Charges

A. The school district will make reasonable efforts to communicate with families to resolve the matter of unpaid charges. Where appropriate, families may be encouraged to apply for free and reduced-price meals for their children.

B. The school district will make reasonable efforts to collect unpaid meal charges classified as delinquent debt.  Unpaid meal charges are designated as delinquent debt when payment is overdue, the debt is considered collectable, and efforts are being made to collect it.

C. Negative balances of more than $25, not paid prior to the end of the school year, will be turned over to the superintendent or superintendent’s designee for collection. Collection options may include, but are not limited to, use of collection agencies, claims in the conciliation court, or any other legal method permitted by law. 

D. The school district may not enlist the assistance of non-school district employees, such as volunteers, to engage in debt collection efforts. 

V. Communication of Policy

A. This policy and any pertinent supporting information shall be provided to: 

1. all households at or before the start of each school year;

2. students and families who transfer into the school district, at the time of enrollment; and

3. all school district personnel who are responsible for enforcing this policy.

B. The school district may post the policy on the school district’s website, in addition to providing the required notification described above.

Legal References:
Minn. Stat. § 124D.111
42 U.S.C. § 1751 et seq. (Healthy and Hunger-Free Kids Act)
7 C.F.R. § 210 et seq. (School Lunch Program Regulations)
7 C.F.R. § 220.8 (School Breakfast Program Regulations)
USDA Policy Memorandum SP 46-2016, Unpaid Meal Charges: Local Meal Charge Policies (2016) 
USDA Policy Memorandum SP 47-2016, Unpaid Meal Charges: Clarification on Collection of Delinquent Meal Payments (2016) 
USDA Policy Memorandum SP 23-2017, Unpaid Meal Charges: Guidance and Q&A