California - Unpaid meal charge policy--supports students: Program requirement

Program Requirement
Policy Type: 

State law establishes a policy regarding unpaid meal charges that prohibits shaming and/or denying meals.

California Education Code 49557.5.

(b) (1) A local educational agency, including a local educational agency in which there is a school that is required to serve a free or reduced-price meal during the schoolday pursuant to Section 49550 and at which all pupils are not eligible to be served breakfast and lunch under the Community Eligibility Provision or Provision 2 of the federal National School Lunch Act (42 U.S.C. Sec. 1751 et seq.), shall ensure that a pupil whose parent or guardian has unpaid school meal fees is not shamed, treated differently, or served a meal that differs from what a pupil whose parent or guardian does not have unpaid school meal fees would receive under that local educational agency’s policy. This paragraph does not prohibit a school from serving an alternative reimbursable meal to a pupil who may need one for dietary or religious reasons.

  • (2) If a local educational agency is required to provide to the department or to the United States Department of Agriculture a copy of the meal charge policy required pursuant to memorandum SP 46-2016 issued by the United States Department of Agriculture, the local educational agency or governing board or body of the local educational agency, as applicable, shall make that policy public.

(c) School personnel and volunteers at a local educational agency that serves nutritionally adequate meals to pupils during the instructional day shall not allow any disciplinary action that is taken against a pupil to result in the denial or delay of a nutritionally adequate meal, as defined in Section 49553, to that pupil.
(d) A local educational agency shall not take any action directed at a pupil to collect unpaid school meal fees. A local educational agency may attempt to collect unpaid school meal fees from a parent or guardian, but shall not use a debt collector, as defined in Section 803 of the federal Consumer Credit Protection Act (15 U.S.C. Sec. 1692a).
(e) A local educational agency shall notify a parent or guardian of the negative balance of a pupil’s school meal account no later than 10 days after the pupil’s school meal account has reached a negative balance. Before sending this notification to the parent or guardian, the local educational agency shall exhaust all options and methods to directly certify the pupil for free or reduced-price meals. If the local educational agency is not able to directly certify the pupil, the local educational agency shall provide the parent or guardian with a paper copy of, or an electronic link to, an application with the notification and contact the parent or guardian to encourage application submission.

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