Meal Charge & Prohibition Against Meal Shaming Policy


The goal of Rochester School for the Deaf (RSD) is to provide students access to a nutritious low-cost lunch each school day and to ensure that a student whose parent/guardian has unpaid school meal fees is not shamed or treated differently than a student whose parent/guardian does not have unpaid meal fees.

Unpaid meal charges place a large financial burden on our school. This policy aims to ensure compliance with federal requirements for the USDA Child Nutrition Program and to provide oversight and accountability for the collection of outstanding student meal balances.

The intent of this policy is to establish procedures to address unpaid meal charges throughout Rochester School for the Deaf in a way that does not stigmatize, distress, or embarrass students. The provisions of this policy pertain to regular-priced reimbursable school lunch meals only. The charging of items outside of reimbursable meals (a la carte items, adult meals, etc.) is expressly prohibited.

Access to Meals

Free and Reduced Meal Benefit - Eligible students will be allowed to receive a free lunch meal of their choice each day. A la carte items or other similar items must be paid for at the time of service.

Full-Pay Students - Students will pay for meals at the school’s published paid meal rate each day. For 2022-23, that cost is $3.60.  The charge meals offered to students will be reimbursable meals available to all students unless the student’s parent or guardian has specifically provided written permission to the school to withhold a meal. A la carte items or other similar items must be paid for at the time of service.

Parent Outreach

Parents are encouraged to submit a Free/Reduced Application to RSD for eligibility review or, if applicable, send a copy to RSD of their Direct Certification letter from New York State. Returning families will be required to fill out the application every school year for eligibility review and are encouraged to submit their application no later than September 15 of the new school year. The application and its information are found on RSD’s Web site.

Below are the following ways that our school staff will continue to communicate with parents/guardians:
  • Our school staff will make at least two attempts (not including the application and instructions provided at the start of the new school year) to reach the parents/guardians to fill out a meal application.
  • Our school staff will contact the parent/guardian:
    1.) To offer assistance with the completion of a meal application.
    2.) To determine if there are other issues within the household that are causing the child to have insufficient funds.
    3.) To offer any other assistance that is appropriate.
Parent Notification

For those families who do not qualify for the free meal or reduced benefits, it is their responsibility to see that their child(ren)’s lunch meals are paid for or have a lunch prepared from home.

Parents/guardians are highly encouraged to pay for the monthly lunches in advance. There are a few options to pay in advance: 1) You can pay by check payable to Rochester School for the Deaf. 2) You can bring cash to the Business Office at which time you will be issued a receipt. 3) You can pay online via MySchoolBucks: Funds should be maintained in accounts to minimize the possibility that a child may be without meal money on any given day.

A monthly invoice with the student’s current account balance will be mailed to each family within about ten days of the previous month’s end. For questions about the monthly invoices, contact Ellie Speechley in the Student Services Office at 585-336-5839 or by email: [email protected]

If a family is experiencing financial difficulty, the school staff will work with the family directly and discreetly and can explore options, including a repayment schedule.

Refunds for withdrawn, and graduating students; a written or e-mailed request for a refund of any money remaining in their account must be submitted. Students who are graduating at the end of the year will be given the option to transfer to a sibling’s account with a written request.

Any remaining funds for a particular student will be carried over to the next school year.

Graduating students or students who left RSD with unpaid balances at the end of the school year will be subject to having their transcripts and student records withheld until their balances are paid.

Unclaimed Funds must be requested within one school year. Unclaimed funds will then become the property of the Rochester School for the Deaf Food Service Program.

Ongoing Eligibility Certification

The Business Office Staff reviews and conducts the procedures for the administration of the free and reduced-price lunch meal program of RSD to be the same as those prescribed in current and state federal laws and regulations. The following procedures are outlined:
  • The Business Office Staff conducts and reviews the statewide direct certification (DCMP) process by accessing the DCMP data via the New York State Student Identification System (NYSSIS) or New York State Education Department (NYSED) Roster Upload to maximize free eligibility. NYSED provides updated direct certification data monthly.
  • The Business Office Staff provides parents/guardians with free and reduced-price application and instructions at the beginning of each school year to those not found on the NYSSIS system.
  • RSD must provide a thirty-day carryover of eligibility for free and reduced-price students from the previous school year during the first thirty operating days of a new school year, or until a new eligibility determination is made, whichever is first.
  • The Business Office Staff provides at least two additional free and reduced-price applications throughout the school year to families identified as owing meal charges.
  • The Business Office Staff will use administrative prerogative judiciously, only after using exhaustive efforts to obtain a completed application from the parent/guardian only with available information on family size and income that falls within approvable guidelines.
  • RSD will coordinate with the foster, homeless, migrant, and runaway coordinators to certify eligible students. School liaisons required for homeless, foster, and migrant students shall coordinate with the nutrition department to make sure such students receive free school meals in accordance with federal law.
Ongoing Staff Training

Our Business Office Staff will be trained annually and throughout the year as needed on the procedures for managing meal charges using the NYSED Webinar or the school’s training program. This includes ongoing eligibility certification for free or reduced-price meals.

Minimizing Student Distress

The goal of RSD for this policy is to ensure in a way that our students are not stigmatized, distressed or embarrassed while being compliant with the federal and state requirements of the USDA Child Nutrition Program. The following guidelines are listed below:
  • RSD will not publicly identify or stigmatize any student on the line or discuss any outstanding meal debt in the presence of any other students.
  • Students who incur meal charges will not be required to wear a wristband or handstamp, or to do chores or work to pay for meals.
  • RSD will not throw away a meal after it has been served because of the student’s inability to pay for the meal or because of previous meal charges.
  • RSD will not take any action directed at a student to collect unpaid school meal fees.
  • RSD will not serve alternative meals (i.e. cheese sandwich).
  • RSD will deal directly and discreetly with parents/guardians regarding unpaid school meal fees.
Nondiscrimination Statement

In accordance with federal civil rights law and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) civil rights regulations and policies, RSD is prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex (including gender identity and sexual orientation), disability, age, or reprisal or retaliation for prior civil rights activity.
Program information may be made available in languages other than English. Persons with disabilities who require alternative means of communication to obtain program information (e.g., Braille, large print, audiotape, American Sign Language), should contact the responsible state or local agency that administers the program or USDA’s TARGET Center at (202) 720-2600 (voice and TTY) or contact USDA through the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877-8339.
To file a program discrimination complaint, a Complainant should complete a Form AD-3027, USDA Program Discrimination Complaint Form which can be obtained online at: P-Complaint-Form-0508-0002-508-11-28-17Fax2Mail.pdf, from any USDA office, by calling (866) 632-9992, or by writing a letter addressed to USDA. The letter must contain the complainant’s name, address, telephone number, and a written description of the alleged discriminatory action in sufficient detail to inform the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights (ASCR) about the nature and date of an alleged civil rights violation. The completed AD-3027 form or letter must be submitted to USDA by:
  1. mail:
    U.S. Department of Agriculture
    Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights
    1400 Independence Avenue, SW
    Washington, D.C. 20250-9410; or
  2. fax:
    (833) 256-1665 or (202) 690-7442; or
  3. email:
    [email protected]
RSD is an equal opportunity provider.