Distribution of Meal Benefits Applications

Federal regulations require that every student in the District receive a meal benefits application at the beginning of each school year. The campus administrator shall ensure that applications are made available to all students and distributed according to federal regulations.

Application Processing

To ensure timely processing of meal benefits applications, the campus administration shall designate an individual in the school office who will facilitate the processing and routing of the applications to the central Food Services office. This individual will also act as a liaison with parents and the Food Services Department regarding the status of applications and notification letters to parents.

Civil Rights Assurances

Disclosure of a student's eligibility for free or reduced-price meals is prohibited by federal regulations except for federal education programs (e.g., Title 1), state health or education programs, (provided the programs are administered by a state agency), or state-sponsored grant programs. Campus administrators should make certain that students' rights are protected and that information regarding a student's socioeconomic status is not disclosed except in the cases noted above.


Point-of-service counting and claiming procedures are required when determining reimbursable meals. Federal regulations define a point-of-service meal count as "that point in the food service operation when a determination can accurately be made that a reimbursable meal is served to an eligible child." With the exception of using the breakfast roster for breakfast in the classroom, counts taken in the classroom, attendance counts, head counts, and tray counts are not allowable methods for claiming federally reimbursed meals.

Offer Vs. Serve

"Offer vs. serve" is a serving method developed by the USDA designed to reduce food waste and costs in the school lunch program without jeopardizing the nutritional integrity of the lunches served. As per federal regulation, campus personnel may not require that certain food items be taken, and students must be given the opportunity to decide which food items they will consume, e.g., a student cannot be required to take milk.

Denial of Meals as a Disciplinary Action

Federal regulation prohibits the use of the denial of meals as a disciplinary action against any student who is enrolled in a school. Disciplinary actions that indirectly result in the loss of meals is allowable (e.g., a student is suspended from school). However, when the withholding of meals is the disciplinary action, or if the disciplinary action directly results in the loss of meals, it is inconsistent with the law and is not allowable.

Foods of Minimal Nutritional Value

Federal regulation requires that foods of minimal nutritional value not be made available to students during meal times. Campus administrators should ensure compliance with these requirements.

Removing Food from the Cafeteria

Students may save items from their meals for consumption at a later time. Food that is taken outside of designated meal service areas is intended to be consumed only by the student the meal was served to, during the regular school day, not shared with family and friends. The Food Service Department may donate leftover foods as compliant with local health department rules and regulations.

Meal Pricing

Federal regulation requires the District to maintain meal price equity by raising lunch prices by a maximum of $0.10 per year as needed to keep paid meal prices in line with free meal reimbursement rates. Any changes to meal prices require approval by the Superintendent or designee. The Food Services Department will be responsible for informing the Board, community, and campus personnel of changes at least two months prior to effectuation of the changes.

Charging Meals

If students exhaust their meal accounts, they may charge meals at any meal service as follows:

  1. Students in elementary and middle school may charge up to three meals.
  2. Students in high school may charge up to two meals.
  3. Students may not charge a la carte items.

Charges shall be paid in full before a menued meal is offered. Once the charge limit is reached, if the account is not replenished, the student shall receive a courtesy meal at the beginning of the lunch line. There is no limit to the number of courtesy meals a student may receive.

Cafeteria staff will work with campus staff to identify students' eligibility for free or reduced-price meals.

Notification or Low and Negative Balances and Collection of Funds

The District shall notify the household of a student with a low or negative meal balance and request payment by letter and email. Automatic phone calls shall also be administered no more than once per week.

Payment of Delinquent Meal Charge Debt

Donated funds received throughout the year, when available, will be used to offset negative account balances. At year end, activity or other local funds are used to offset negative account balances.

Secondary School Lunch Periods

When planning master schedules, administrators must involve the food service director to ensure the amount of space and staff allocated to the kitchen and cafeteria can accommodate the number of students with adequate time to receive and consume meals.

After School Snack and Programs

As per federal regulation, qualified programs must include education or enrichment activities in organized, structured, and supervised environments. Campus administrators must ensure that programs requesting snacks or after-school meals conform to the regulations stated above.

Health and Safety

Due to concerns for safety and sanitation, only food services personnel will be allowed in the kitchen area at all times. Neither school staff nor students should be permitted in the kitchen area unless participating in an instructional or school activity that has been approved by the principal and the Food Services Department.

Austin ISD


LDU 2019.05

DATE ISSUED: 5/29/2019