Policy 3542.2, School Meal Program Arrears, has been newly added to the Critical Policy Reference Manual (CPRM).

Section 143 of the federal law – the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 – authorizes the secretary to implement standards for meal charges and the provision of alternate meals. As authorized under this provision, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Food and Nutrition Service issued a memorandum (SP 46-2016, July 8, 2016) requiring school food authorities participating in the Food and Nutrition Service National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program to develop and clearly communicate a meal charge policy.

New Jersey statute N.J.S.A. 18A:33-21 allows that after the appropriate notice is given in accordance with the law, a district or school may deny a meal to a student who has accumulated meal payment arrears.  While districts and schools may deny a meal, the law does not require that the meal be denied.

There is flexibility for school boards to evaluate the unique circumstances of their school community including community demographics, percentage of students participating in federally-funded food programs, and budgetary resources, when determining the best policy approach for the community.

The NJSBA sample policy provides three options for the board to consider taking into account the age of the students and the provision of an alternate meal. The board also has the discretion to revise the options or create their own conditions. The USDA encourages schools to be flexible in this area, particularly with young children and children with disabilities who may be unable to take full responsibility for their money. The USDA encourages schools to provide some credit for these children or serve an alternate meal. A document covering frequently asked questions is available online.

The NJSBA CPRM sample policy language should not be approved or placed on a school board agenda without filling in the blanks and selecting Option 1, Option 2 or Option 3, or writing your own conditions.  For help developing policy language to suit a district’s needs do not hesitate to contact NJSBA Policy Services via email.