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534-Unpaid Meal Charges

  • 500 Series: Students
534-Unpaid Meal Charges
Rationale Date Approved/Revised
The purpose of this policy is to ensure that students receive healthy and nutritious meals through the school district’s nutrition program and that school district employees, families, and students have a shared understanding of expectations regarding meal charges.  This policy seeks to allow students to receive the nutrition they need to stay focused during the school day and minimize identification of students with insufficient funds to pay for school meals as well as to maintain the financial integrity of the school nutrition program
  • Approved: 7/18/17
  • Revised: 5/21/19
  • Revised: 12/17/19
  • Revised: 5/19/20
  • Revised: 12/14/21
  • Revised:  8/22/23

1)   Payment of Meals

A.  Students have use of a meal account. When an account reaches a negative balance, a student shall not be allowed to charge second meals or a la carte items until the negative account balance is paid via cash, check or online payment.

If the school district participates in the United States Department of Agriculture National School Lunch program and has an Identified Student Percentage below the federal percentage determined for all meals to be reimbursed at the free rate via the Community Eligibility Provision must participate in the free school meals program

B.  A school that participates in the United States Department of Agriculture National School Lunch program and has an Identified Student Percentage at or above the federal percentage determined for all meals to be reimbursed at the free rate must participate in the federal Community Eligibility Provision in order to participate in the free school meals program.

C. Each school that participates in the free school meals program must:

1.  participate in the United States Department of Agriculture School Breakfast Program and the United States Department of Agriculture National School Lunch Program; and

2. provide to all students at no cost up to two federally reimbursable meals per school day, with a maximum of one free breakfast and one free lunch.

D.  Once a meal has been placed on a student’s tray or otherwise served to a student, the meal may not be subsequently withdrawn from the student by the cashier or other school official, whether or not the student has an outstanding meals balance.

E.  When a student has a negative account balance, the student will not be allowed to charge an ala carte item.

F.  If a parent or guardian chooses to send in one payment that is to be divided between sibling accounts, the parent or guardian must specify how the funds are to be distributed to the students’ accounts.  Funds may be transferred between sibling accounts if permission is received from the parent or guardian.

2)   Low or Negative Account Balances – Notification

A. The school district will make reasonable efforts to notify families when meal account balances are low or fall below zero.

B.  Families will be notified of an outstanding negative balance once the negative balance reaches below zero.  Families will be notified via BlackBoard email and phone.

C.  Reminders for payment of outstanding student meal balances will not demean or stigmatize any student participating in the school lunch program.  Including, but not limited to, dumping meals, withdrawing a meal that has been served, announcing or listing students’ names publicly, providing alternative meals not specifically related to dietary needs; providing nonreimbursable meals; or affixing stickers, stamps, or pins.

3)   Unpaid Meal Charges 

A. The school district will make reasonable efforts to communicate with families to resolve the matter of unpaid charges. Where appropriate, families may be encouraged to apply for free and reduced-price meals for their children.              

B.  The school district will make reasonable efforts to collect unpaid meal charges classified as delinquent debt.  Unpaid meal charges are designated as delinquent debt when payment is overdue, the debt is considered collectable, and efforts are being made to collect it.

C.  Negative balances of more than $10.00, not paid prior to end of the school year, will be turned over to the superintendent or superintendent’s designee for collection.  In some instances, the school district does use a collection agency to collect unpaid school meal debts after reasonable efforts first have been made by the school district to collect the debt.  Collection options may include, but are not limited to, use of collection agencies, claims in the conciliation court, or any other legal method permitted by law.

D.  The school district may not enlist the assistance of non-school district employees, such as volunteers, to engage in debt collection efforts.

E.  The school district will not impose any other restriction prohibited under Minnesota Statutes section 123B.37 due to unpaid student meal balances. The school district will not limit a student’s participation in any school activities, graduation ceremonies, field trips, athletics, activity clubs, or other extracurricular activities or access to materials, technology, or other items provided to students due to an unpaid student meal balance.

3)     Communication of Policy 

A. This policy and any pertinent supporting information shall be provided in writing (i.e., mail, email, back-to-school packet, student handbook, etc.) to:

1.  all households at or before the start of each school year;

2. students and families who transfer into the school district, at the time of enrollment; and

3.  all school district personnel who are responsible for enforcing this policy. 

B.  The school district will post this policy on the school district’s website, or the website of the organization where the meal is served, in addition to providing the required written notification described above.             

C.  If the school district contracts with a third party for its meal services, it will provide the vendor with its school meals policy.  The school district will ensure that any third-party provider with whom the school district enters into either an original or modified contract after July 1, 2021, adheres to the school district’s school meals policy.        

Adoption and Revision History

Incorporated Policies


This Policy Adopted:  July 18, 2017

MSBA 534


This Policy Revised:  May 21, 2019; Revised:  December 17, 2019; Revised:  May 19, 2020, August 22, 2023


Administrative Rule, Regulation and Procedure: NA 

Legal References:              

Minn. Stat. § 123B.37 (Prohibited Fees)                                            

Minn. Stat. § 124D.111 (Lunch Aid; Food Service Accounting)

42 U.S.C. § 1751 et seq. (Healthy and Hunger-Free Kids Act)

7 C.F.R. § 210 et seq. (School Lunch Program Regulations)

7 C.F.R. § 220.8 (School Breakfast Program Regulations)

USDA Policy Memorandum SP 46-2016, Unpaid Meal Charges: Local Meal Charge Policies (2016)

USDA Policy Memorandum SP 47-2016, Unpaid Meal Charges: Clarification on Collection of Delinquent Meal Payments (2016)

USDA Policy Memorandum SP 23-2017, Unpaid Meal Charges: Guidance and Q&A