West Genesee Central School District Food Service Department Prohibition Against Meal Shaming Plan and Meal Charging Policy
The West Genesee Central School District (the “District”) submits the following Prohibition Against Meal Shaming Plan in accordance with Education Law Section 908. The purpose of the plan is to ensure that students whose parents or guardians have unpaid meal fees are not shamed or treated differently than students who do not have unpaid meal fees. The following plan components are designed to ensure compliance with the Law:
A. Student Meal of Choice
- The District shall provide all students, at all grade levels, upon request, any reimbursable meal offered on any particular day, regardless of any balance owed on a student’s meal account, unless the student’s parent or guardian has specifically provided written permission to the District to withhold a meal.
- Once a child’s account balance in negative $10.00 or more, collection efforts by the District Office will begin.
- At no time will food be removed from a child’s tray.
- The District only allows charges of reimbursable meals. At no time will a child with a negative balance be allowed to charge ala-carte items or second lunches. (However, if the food is on their tray when they arrive at the point of sale register, please refer to item 3 above.)
- If a child asks for an ala-carte item, such as ice cream or a Powerade, at the point of sale register, those purchases will not be allowed. Our staff will inform the student that they are fine with the reimbursable meal, but they are not able to have additional items today.
B. Procedures Designed to Decrease Student Distress or Embarrassment
- No District staff shall publicly identify or stigmatize a student who cannot pay for a meal or who owes a meal debt by any means, including but not limited to requiring a student wear a wristband or hand stamp, announcing or publicizing the names of children with unpaid meal charges, or sending clearly marked notice home with children who have an outstanding balance.
- No District staff shall require a student who cannot pay for a meal or who owes a meal debt to do chores or other work to pay for meals.
- No District staff shall require that a student throw away a meal after it has been served because of the student’s inability to pay for the meal or because money is owed for earlier meals.
- The District will no longer offer alternate meals, such as cheese or peanut butter sandwiches to any child when their lunch account balance is negative.
- No District staff shall take any action directed at a student to collect unpaid school meal fees. The District may only attempt to collect unpaid school meal fees from a parent or guardian, but shall not use a debt collector, as defined in section eight hundred three of the federal Consumer Credit Protection Act, 5 U.S.C. Sec. 1692a.
- Staff will not discuss any details of outstanding meal debt in the presence of other students. If students ask for the status of their school lunch account, staff should encourage them or their parent/guardian to access the information online through their MySchoolBucks account or have them or a parent/guardian call the office at 315-487-4661.
- Kitchen Staff and Serving Line Staff will not be involved with the monitoring of student account balances. Any account shortages will be handled by administration using the guidelines contained herein.
C. Staff Training
- All food service staff shall receive training at the start of each school year regarding the District’s Prohibition Against Meal Shaming Plan, Meal Charging Policy and other related procedures, and communication with parents regarding establishing eligibility for free or reduced-price meals for their children.
- The School Lunch Manager shall access appropriate written documents, videos, and other training materials if offered by the Child Nutrition Unit of the New York State Education Department or state professional organizations.
- The School Lunch Manager shall make random observations of students at each school building to ensure compliance with the District’s Plan at least twice per fiscal year.
- Parents and guardians with unpaid meal accounts shall be provided with information, assistance and accessibility to free and reduced meal applications by food service staff. All parents and guardians shall be informed of eligibility of free and reduced meals at the start of the school year in accordance with procedures set forth by the New York State Education Department. Application information will be posted on the District’s website at www.westgenesee.org, included in student registration packets, and be available through the principals, guidance offices, food service office and the registrar’s office.
D. Communication Procedures to Support Free & Reduced Meal Eligible Families
- In the event a parent or guardian owes more than $25 for meals charged by a student, the District shall: a. Make every attempt to determine if a student is directly certified to be eligible for free meals;
b. Make at least two attempts, not including the application or instructions included in a school enrollment packet, to reach the student’s parent or guardian and have the parent or guardian fill out a meal application;
c. Require the School Lunch Manager to contact the parent or guardian to offer assistance with a meal application. The School Lunch Manager will make a referral to the building principal, social worker or guidance counselor so that they may determine if there are other issues within the household that have caused the child to have insufficient funds to purchase a school meal; and
d. Offer any other assistance that is appropriate.
- The School Lunch Manager shall determine eligible families through the Direct Certification Process a minimum of three times during the school year.
- All new students, previously eligible students, or students identified as needy by authorized school staff will be manually searched on the New York State Education Department website by the School Lunch Manager to determine eligibility. If the student is determined to be eligible, the parent or guardian will be notified by the Food Service Office.
- Before the annual thirty-day grace period for free and reduced meals is exhausted, the Food Service Office will contact the parent or guardian by phone or e-mail if a new application for free and reduced meals has not been submitted. The Food Service Office will offer assistance with completion of the application and as necessary, coordinate with the building principal, social worker, guidance counselor or other authorized staff to provide the assistance.
E. Procedures to Handle Unpaid Meal Charges / Overdrawn Accounts
- No actions will be taken until an account is at negative $10.00 or more.
- Account balances will be verified every Friday during the school year using the MySchoolBucks program to identify only those accounts that have a negative balance of $10.00 or greater. (NEGATIVE BALANCE ACTION DETERMINATION)
- Once an account is flagged for having a balance of -$10.00 or greater, the account will be monitored for five (5) business days (grace period), or until the account is brought current, whichever is first.
- At the end of the five business day grace period, if the account is still has a balance of negative $10.00 or more, a letter will be mailed home to the parent/guardian via first class mail of the student’s record in SchoolTool.
- If the account balance is not brought current or below negative $10.00 by the following Friday, a subsequent letter will be mailed home asking for the parent/guardian to bring the account current by the end of the next week or contact the office if they have had a change in financial condition and need to make special repayment arrangements.
- If no response is received to step 4 or 5, personal phone calls will be made to the parent/guardian in order to: a. Ask how we can help to rectify the matter
b. Offer payment options
c. Reinforce to them the free/reduced lunch eligibility possibilities and application process
i. Remind them that these were included with the opening of school packets, but additional information is available on the website.
- Continue to monitor those in the collection process above until rectified.
- If not current within ten (10) days of step 6, send a final letter outlining the dates of all steps taken; give a final deadline, including a proposed repayment schedule.
- If a child is graduated senior, and amount owed is less than $25.00, these accounts will be subsidized by the general fund account Transfers to School Lunch. If the amount is greater than $25.00, two additional mailings will be made to the parents and/or guardians to attempt to remedy the situation. If not corrected, the general fund will subsidize the balance due for said graduated senior.
- The District will not charge any interest or fees in connection with any meals charged, except the District may charge convenience fees associated with the use of the MySchoolBucks secure online payment system.
- Nothing in this section is intended to allow for the unlimited accrual of debt.
- The District will reimburse the food service account for all outstanding meal charges by no later than June 30 of each school year. Funds used to reimburse the food service account will be taken from a non-federal source
F. Procedures to Identify and Enroll Eligible Students in the Free and Reduced Price Meals Program
- The District shall follow the procedures to enroll students in the Free and Reduced Price Meals Program set forth by the New York State Education Department Child Nutrition Unit.
- Such procedures shall include, at the beginning of the school year, the District providing a free, printed meal application in every school enrollment packet and accessibility through the District website at www.westgenesee.org. The District shall also clearly instruct parents/guardians that they are not required to complete the application if they have already been or are eligible to be directly certified.
- Completed applications from the parents or guardians should be provided to the building principal, who will forward to the School Lunch Manager. Parents or guardians who are on the Direct Certification System are automatically downloaded and do not need to submit a paper application. Parents or guardians submitting a certification letter from the Department of Social Services stating eligibility also do not need to submit a paper application.
- The School Lunch Manager will review the applications and determine eligibility according to New York State Education Department guidelines, including direct certification and Department of Social Services certification for qualified individuals.
- The School Lunch Manager will notify parents and guardians by letter if their children qualify or do not qualify for free and reduced meals.
- The District will work to directly identify eligible students by accessing the Statewide Direct Certification (DCMP) data.
G. Procedures for Students Not Submitting Free and Reduced Meal Applications
- Each student enrolled in the free and reduced meal program in the previous year is automatically granted a thirty (30) school day grace period at the start of the school year for the parent or guardian to submit a new application.
- One week prior to the expiration of the thirty school day grace period, Food Service staff will contact the parent or guardian reminding him or her that a completed application has not been received.
- The Food Service Manager will then review the list of uncompleted applications with the Principal to determine if the student should qualify for free and reduced meals under the administrative prerogative guidelines through the New York State Education Department.
- In the event that the Principal and School Lunch Manager agree that an application be completed on the student’s behalf by the Principal, he or she will do so in accordance with title seven, section 245.6(d) of the code of federal regulations and guidance from the New York State Education Department. The School Manager will then update the District’s Point of Sale System to designate the student for free meals and maintain documentation for audit purposes.
H. Coordination with School Liaisons for Homeless, Foster and Migrant Students
- On an annual basis at the organizational meeting, the Board of Education will appoint a school liaison for homeless, foster and migrant students.
- The liaison will contact the School Lunch Manager to provide written notice that a student is designated as homeless, foster, or migrant and qualifies for free meals.
- The School Lunch Manager will update the Point of Sale System to designate the student for free meals and maintain a listing for audit purposes.
- Students transferring from a Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) or Provision 2 (P2) participating school to the District will be provided thirty (30) days free eligibility or will receive free meals until a new eligibility determination is made, whichever comes first.
I. Who to Contact Regarding this Plan
- The School Lunch Manager, Paul Pelton, may be contacted regarding implementation of the plan or any other related questions at 315-487-4563 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.