SNP Meal Pricing and Charging

Unpaid Meal Charges Administrative Procedure

All school food authorities (SFAs) operating the National School Lunch Program and/or School Breakfast Program must have a written and clearly communicated meal charge policy/procedure in place no later than July 1, 2017. All SFAs must have a policy/procedure in place for children who are participating at the reduced price or paid meal rate who either do not have money in their account or in hand to cover the cost of the meal at the time of the service.  Click SP46-2016 to view the full policy memorandum.

Charge Policy Checklist

The policy:

  • must clearly communicate the meal charging and alternate meal policies;
  • may allow students to charge all types of available reimbursable meals;
  • must impose limits on the number of charges and/or the amount of the charges;
  • must be provided in writing to all households at the start of each school year;
  • must be provided in writing to households that transfer to the school during the school year;
  • must be provided to all school or SFA-level staff responsible for policy enforcement;
  • must be clearly communicated to school administrators, school food service professionals, families, and students; and
  • must include procedures for collection of delinquent meal charge debt.

Delinquent Debt

  • Delinquent debt is defined as overdue unpaid meal charges that are considered collectable, with efforts being made to collect them.
  • The SFA will define a reasonable timeframe when the debt is considered delinquent.
  • The SFA will establish methods for collecting the debt.
  • The debt may remain on the accounting documents until it is either collected or determined to be uncollectable and written off. The debt may be carried over at the end of the school year (beyond June 30).

Bad Debt

  • Bad debt is determined to be uncollectable, with further collection efforts for delinquent debt deemed useless or too costly.
  • Bad debts arising from uncollectable accounts and other claims are unallowable. Related collection costs and legal costs arising from such debts after they have been determined to be uncollectable are also unallowable (section 200.426 of subpart E).
  • Bad debt must be written off as operating losses; the nonprofit school food service account resources may not be used to cover the costs related to the bad debt (such as legal and collection costs). These funds may come from the school district’s general fund, school or community organizations, or any other non-federal source.
  • Once delinquent meal charges are converted to bad debt, records relating to those charges must be maintained in accordance with record retention requirements in 7 CFR 210.9(b)(17) and 7 CFR 210.15(b).

Additional Resources

USDA FNS Unpaid Meal Charges Resource

Adult Meal Pricing

Adult meals are defined as meals sold to school employees, parents, and visitors.

Adult meal pricing may be calculated using one of two methods:

  1. If meal cost data is available:
    • Breakfasts and lunches served to teachers, administrators, custodians, and other adults must be priced so that the adult payment is sufficient to cover the overall cost of the lunch, including the value of any USDA entitlement and bonus donated foods used to prepare the meal.
  2. If meal cost data is not available:
    • In pricing programs, breakfasts and lunches served to teachers, administrators, custodians, and other adults must be priced to include the student full-price meal cost, plus the current value of federal cash and donated food assistance (entitlement and bonus).
    • In non-pricing programs, breakfasts and lunches served to teachers, administrators, custodians, and other adults must be priced to include at least the amount of reimbursement received for a free lunch under Section 4 and 11 of the National School Lunch Act, plus the per-meal value of both entitlement and bonus donated foods. For breakfasts only, the rate established for free meals under Section 4 of the Child Nutrition Act, plus the value of bonus commodities.

Some school districts may have two categories of adult meal prices: school employees and visitors.

Meals served to adults who are directly involved in the operation and administration of the school nutrition programs may, at the discretion of the School Food Authority (SFA), be provided at no charge. As such, their cost may be fully attributed to and supported by the nonprofit food service operation. The determination of individuals, positions involved, and the degree to which their services are attributed to the nonprofit food service program operations is left to state and local officials.

Meals served to adults may not be claimed for reimbursement or counted towards the donated foods’ entitlement.