Policy 710.04: Meal Charges

Original Adopted Date: 06/18/2018 | Last Reviewed Date: 06/19/2023

In accordance with state and federal law, the Community School District adopts the following policy to ensure school district employees, families, and students have a shared understanding of expectations regarding meal charges. The policy seeks to allow students to receive the nutrition they need to stay focused during the school day, prevent the overt identification of students with insufficient funds to pay for school meals, and maintain the financial integrity of the nonprofit school nutrition program. 

Payment of Meals
K-6th Grades Procedure:

  1. Printed balance notification sent home with students $5.00 or below daily
  2. $0.00 balance or below, students will not be allowed to charge an extra entreé, extra milk, or a la carte
  3. Phone call made to parents/guardians by the nutrition department at -$5.00 or below daily
  4. If no response at -$25.00, building principal or district designee contact parent/guardian and makes arrangements for lunch.  Suggestions include cold lunch from home or cash.

7-12th Grade Procedure:

  1. Printed balance notification sent home with students $9.00 or below daily
  2. $9.00 or below, cashier verbalized balance to the student
  3. $0.00 balance or below, students will not be allowed to charge an extra entreé, extra milk, or a la carte
  4. $0.00 balance to -$15.00, students will be allowed to charge one meal per day (approximately 5 meals)
  5. -$15.00 or below, students may pay cash in the office or bring a cold lunch from home until funds are deposited into the student’s account.

Money must be available in a student’s account in order for extra meals, extra milk, or a la carte to be purchased.  This applied to all students, including students from families participating in the free and reduced meal program.

Students who qualify for free meals shall never be denied a reimbursable meal, even if they have accrued a negative balance from previous purchases.  Schools are encouraged to provide a reimbursable meal to students with outstanding meal charge debt.  If an alternate meal is provided, the meal must be the same meal presented in the same manner to any student requesting an alternate meal.  

Employees are expected to pay for all meals in a timely manner.  At -$5.00 or below, employees may pay cash in the office.  Negative balances must be paid at the end of the school year.

Negative Account Balances
The school district will make reasonable efforts to notify families when meal account balances are low. Additionally, the school district will make reasonable efforts to collect unpaid meal charges classified as delinquent debt. The school district will coordinate communications with the student’s parent or guardian to resolve the matter of unpaid charges. Parents or guardians will be notified of an outstanding negative balance once the student owes five meals or more. Parents or guardians will be notified by notices sent home and/or automated messages. Negative balances of more than $150, not paid prior to the end of the semester will be turned over to the superintendent or superintendent’s designee for collection. Options may include: collection agencies, small claims court, or any other legal method permitted by law. 

Unpaid Student Meals Account
The district will establish an unpaid student meals account in a school nutrition fund.  Funds from private sources and funds from the district flexibility account may be deposited into the unpaid school meals account in accordance with law.  Funds deposited into this account shall be used only to pay individual student meal debt. 

Communication of the Policy 
The policy and supporting information regarding meal charges shall be provided in writing to: 

  • All households at or before the start of each school year; 
  • Students and families who transfer into the district, at time of transfer; and
  • All staff responsible for enforcing any aspect of the policy.  

Records of how and when the policy and supporting information was communicated to households and staff will be retained. 

It is the responsibility of the superintendent to develop an administrative regulation for implementing this policy. 

NOTE: The IASB sample policy is drafted to be consistent for all grade levels. However, local boards may vary the meal charge policy for elementary, middle, and high schools. Districts should update the policy accordingly if they wish to delineate meal charge practices based on the grade level of students.


NOTE: If the district elects to provide alternate meals for students, the alternate meal must contain components available to all students and be provided in the same manner as meals are provided to other students. Additionally, the district is expected to accommodate special dietary needs when a child’s disability restricts their diet. 


NOTE: The Iowa Department of Education has tools and resources available to help districts with the school nutrition program and meal charge policy implementation and review. Please visit the “School Meals” section of the Iowa Department of Education’s website. 


NOTE: School districts must follow appropriate debt collection practices when trying to recover unpaid meal charges. 


Legal Reference: 42 U.S.C. §§ 1751 et seq. 
 7 C.F.R. §§ 210 et seq. 
    CHARGE POLICIES (2016). 
    Q&A (2016). 
Iowa Code 283A. 
281 I.A.C. 58.


I.C. Iowa Code Description
Iowa Code  § 283A School Meal Programs
I.A.C. Iowa Administrative Code Description
281 I.A.C. 58 Education – Breakfast and Lunch Program
U.S.C. – United States Code Description
42 U.S.C. §§ 1751 Public Health – School Lunch Program

Cross References

Code Description
710.01 School Food Program
710.01-R(1) School Food Program – School Nutrition Program Civil Rights Complaints Procedure
710.01-E(1) School Food Program – School Nutrition Program Notices of Nondiscrimination
710.01-E(2) School Food Program – Child Nutrition Programs Civil Rights Complaint Form
710.02 Free or Reduced Cost Meals Eligibility
710.03 Vending Machines