Board of Education Policy 5660: School Food Service, Charging Meals and Meal Shaming

The District participates in the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program, and in turn, serves meals that meet federal requirements and provides free and reduced-price meals to eligible elementary and secondary students in its schools. The District’s meal-charge policy and procedures will be distributed to all households and applicable staff in writing at the start of each school year and to new households that transfer into the District during the school year. The policy and procedures may vary by grade.

Prepaid Accounts

Details regarding payment methods will be available on the District website. Students/Parents/Guardians may pay for meals in advance or with a check payable to Niskayuna Central Schools. Further details are available on the District’s webpage at Funds should be maintained in accounts to minimize the possibility that a student may be without meal money on any given day.

Free and Reduced Meals

The District may allow free or reduced-price meals for qualifying District students after receiving a written application from the student’s parent or guardian or a direct certification letter from the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA). Applications will be provided by the District to all families in the enrollment packet and as part of the annual Back-to-School mailing. During the school year, applications may be obtained from the District website or in each school main office. Questions on completing these applications may be directed to the Building Principal or Food Service Director, who will provide any necessary assistance.

School officials must also determine eligibility for free or reduced-price meals and milk by using the Direct Certification Matching Process. Any student residing in a household receiving federal assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), or Medicaid is automatically eligible for free meals and milk; eligible families will not have to complete further applications. The District will notify parents or guardians of eligibility, giving them the opportunity to decline free meals and milk.

The Director of Student and Staff Support Services, as liaison for homeless, foster and migrant students will coordinate with the Food Service Department to ensure that such students are receiving free meals in accordance with federal law.

Access to Free and Reduced Meals

a) Free meal benefit eligible students will be allowed to receive a free breakfast and lunch meal of their choice each day. A la carte or other similar items must be paid/prepaid.

b) Reduced meal benefit eligible students will be allowed to receive a breakfast of their choice at a cost of $.25 and lunch of their choice at a cost of $.25 each day.

Charging Meals

a) The District will provide students with the student’s meal of choice of the available reimbursable meal choices for that school day upon request, unless the student’s parent or guardian has specifically provided written permission to the school to withhold a meal. This does not include a la carte items, adult meals or similar items.

b) Students who use prepaid meal accounts are given a grace period during which they are allowed to charge meals after their prepaid funds have been exhausted. The parent will be notified that the account balance is exhausted and unpaid meal charges are due. No a la carte items may be charged.

c) The District’s point-of-sale system will track all charges and payments;

d) As appropriate, District administration may contact Social Services to report a student’s consistent failure to arrive at school with a meal.

e) Adults must pay for their meals at the time of service or set up pre-paid accounts.

Unpaid Meal Charges

The District will not publicly identify a student who cannot pay for a meal or who has accrued meal debt, discuss any outstanding meal debt in the presence of other students, or take any action directed at a pupil to collect unpaid meal fees.

However, nothing in this section is intended to allow for the unlimited accrual of debt. Unpaid meal charges place a large financial burden on the district and will be addressed directly with the student’s parent or guardian who is responsible for providing funds for meal purchases.

When a student owes money for five or more meals, the district will:

a) make every attempt to determine if the student is directly certified to be eligible for free meals;
b) make at least two attempts (not including the application and instructions that are included in the enrollment packet) to reach the student’s parent or guardian to fill out a meal application;
c) contact the parent or guardian to offer assistance with a meal application, determine if there are other issues within the household that have caused the child to have insufficient funds to purchase a school meal,
d) and offer any other assistance that is appropriate.

In accordance with 7CFR 245.6(d), the District may complete and file an application for a free or reduced meals for a student it becomes aware that a student who has not submitted a meal application is eligible for free or reduced price meals.

In addition, discreet notifications of low, exhausted, or deficit balances may be sent to parents at appropriate intervals during the school year. The notification may include a repayment schedule, but will not charge any interest or fees related to meals charged during the grace period. District administration will further consider the benefits of attempted collections and the costs that would be expended in collection attempts. No costs expended in collection attempts will be assigned to the household, only the cost of unpaid meals.

Return of Unused Funds

At the end of each school year, any money left in a student’s prepaid meal account shall be carried over from one grade to the next until graduation from Niskayuna High School. After graduating or otherwise leaving the District for more than 30 days, any student prepaid meal accounts with a balance greater than $10 for students will be refunded. Absent any request or instruction otherwise, such balances shall be directed to the last known mailing address on file with the District. Balances less than $10 will be transferred to a fund to help pay off unpaid charges for students in need.

Upon a student’s leaving/graduating from the District, families with balances on their account will also have the option to transfer the balance to a sibling’s account, or to donate the balance to a fund which will help pay off unpaid charges at the end of every school year. To choose either of these options, there will be a form available on the website which may be completed and remitted to the Food Services Director within 30 days of last attendance. Parents/guardians may also use this form to request that the balance on a student’s prepaid account be reimbursed at any time other than upon leaving the district or graduating.

Restrictions on Sale of Milk Prohibited

The District will not directly or indirectly restrict the sale or marketing of fluid milk products at any time or in any place on school premises or at school-sponsored events.

Food Substitutions

Reasonable accommodations, including modifications to regular meal patterns or food substitutions will be offered at no extra charge to students with disabilities when that need is supported by a statement signed by a physical attesting to the need for the substitutions and recommending alternate foods. Food Service is not, however, required to provide meal services to students with disabilities that are not normally available to the general student body, unless required under the students Individualized Education Program (IEP) or Section 504 Accommodation Plan as mandated by a physician’s written instructions.

Though not required, the District will also allow substitutions for non-disabled children who are unable to consume the regular meal because of medical or other special dietary needs if the request is supported by a statement signed by a recognized medical authority. Substitution of a nutritional equivalent to dairy milk may also be provided with a medical note.

HACCP-Based Food Safety Program

Schools participating in the National School Lunch or School Breakfast programs are required to implement a food safety program based on Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) principles. The District must develop a written food safety program for each of its food preparation and service facilities The manual which outlines the District’s written food safety program will include process and procedures, as well as:

a) Critical control points and critical limits;
b) Monitoring procedures;
c) Corrective actions;
d) Verification procedures;
e) Record keeping requirements; and
f) Periodic review and food safety program revision.


Staff Training

Food service staff will undergo annual training to ensure that District policy and procedures are carried out correctly. Additionally, staff will be trained annually and throughout the year as needed on the procedures for managing meal charges using the State Education (SED) Webinar or the District’s training program. Staff training will include ongoing eligibility certification for free or reduced price meals.

Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004, PL 108-265
Child Nutrition Act 1966, 42 USC § 1771 et seq.
Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act 1946, 42 USC § 1751 et seq.
§ 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 USC § 794 et seq.
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 20 USC §§ 1400-1485
7 CFR Parts 15B, 210 and 220
Education Law §§ 902(b), 915, 918, 1604(28), 1709(22), 1709(23) and 2503(9)(a)
8 NYCRR §§ 200.2(b)(1) and 200.2(b)(2)
Social Services Law § 95

Adopted July 14, 2017, Revised April 17, 2018, Revised September 4, 2018, Revised and Updated January 7, 2019