SNP Paid Lunch Equity

Federal regulations (7 C.F.R. § 210.14(e)) require School Food Authorities (SFA) participating in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) to ensure sufficient funds are provided to the nonprofit school food service account for meals served to students not eligible for free or reduced price meals.

Paid Lunch Equity (PLE) Tool

All SFAs, regardless of current lunch prices, must annually review their paid lunch prices to ensure compliance with the paid lunch equity requirement using the current year USDA Paid Lunch Equity (PLE) Tool.

SFAs operating the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) district wide (100% of the schools) and non-pricing programs for lunch do not have to complete the PLE Tool. SFAs operating CEP and non-pricing programs for only some schools must still complete the PLE Tool. The tool will be completed using only the paid lunch prices and meals served in schools that are pricing.

The PLE Tool compares the weighted average pricing (WAP) to the difference between the federal free and paid reimbursements. The annual, per meal increase amount is calculated by the PLE Tool using two percent plus the Consumer Price Index.

If the SFA’s WAP is less than the difference between the free and paid reimbursements, the SFA must do one of the following:

  • Increase paid student lunch prices
  • Contribute non-federal funds1 to the food service account to make up the difference
  • Increase the paid lunch price by a smaller amount and contribute the remaining amount using non-Federal funds

1Currently, SFAs may continue to count as non-federal funds:

  • Per-meal, non-federal reimbursement for any paid meal (breakfast, lunch, etc.)
  • Any funds provided by organizations for any paid meal
  • Any proportion attributable to paid meals from direct payments made from school district funds to support lunch service

Data Needed to Complete PLE Tool

All SFAs need the following data to calculate the WAP:

  • Current school year unrounded price requirement
  • All paid student lunch prices for October of current school year for all schools
  • Number of paid student lunches served associated with each paid student lunch price in October of current school year for all schools

Steps for Completing the PLE Tool

  • Follow the directions listed in the current PLE Tool.
  • Navigate through the tabs in sequential order.
  • Enter the current WAP requirement or use the appropriate tab to calculate it.
  • Enter the paid student meal pricing and meal counts from October of the current school year.
  • Once the weighted average paid price has been determined by the tool, the unrounded price requirement will be calculated.
  • The SFA may round down to the nearest $0.05 for price.
  • The SFA does not have to increase the price by more than $0.10 per year.
  • The SFA may increase the price more than $0.10. This may result in a credit for the next year depending on the amounts.
  • If using non-federal funds, enter the amount in the appropriate box of the “Non-Federal Calculator” or “Split Calculator” tabs.
  • Save the PLE Tool and all supporting documentation.