Meal Charging Policy

Arlington Public Schools Child Nutrition Services

         School Meal Charging Process and Procedure


Our intent

The Child Nutrition Department is self-sufficient and relies on payments, in addition to federal reimbursements, to maintain the level of service provided and financial stability of the program.  It is the expectation that families will work with us to keep accounts in good standing and be accountable for meal charges accrued by their child(ren).  We want meal time to be a positive experience for all students and will serve every child a well-balanced meal when they enter the line and request one.  Because hunger is an impediment to learning, no child will be denied a school meal unless directed to by the child’s parent/guardian.

Student accounts and parent notifications

  • The goal is for student accounts to remain positive
  • All households are accountable for meal charges
  • All account balances, positive or negative, carry over to the next school year
  • Parents will be notified automatically of low balance and negative balance accounts through automated phone and email messages

To support families in maintaining positive balances the Child Nutrition program will:

  • Provide accessible school meal deposit and payment option by:
  • Accepting payment (cash or check) at the school, sent with the student or electronically through the web 
  • Notify parents directly of low and unpaid account balances using the district’s communications system through:
  • Automated low balance (below $5.00) phone and email notifications (Tuesday and Friday evenings)
  • Automated unpaid meal balance (more than -$0.01) phone and email notifications (Tuesday and Friday evenings)
  • Letter and account balances (more than -$10.00) mailed home from Child Nutrition
  • Ensure all eligible families are certified for free and reduces-price school meals by:
  • Distributing school meal applications prior to the start of the school year or at the time of enrollment, as well as printed and available in each school office or online throughout the school year.Parents with questions or who need assistance may contact Child Nutrition at 360.618.6237
  • Regularly (weekly) utilizing data provided by the state or other school district officials to certify eligible children without application
  • Completing a school meal application by a building designee for any child known to be eligible for free or reduces-priced school meals if the household fails to apply

Financial Support

  • The District will distribute, and make available, free and reduced applications to households and proactively qualify a student for free or reduced price meals through Direct Certification utilizing State systems that are available for District access.
  • Applications are available in any school office or online and are accepted all year long as family financial situations may change at any time.
  • Families transferring into the District may present Child Nutrition with a qualifying letter from their immediate past district and receive benefits seamlessly through their transition.


  • Child Nutrition will not delay nor deny a meal due to a student having insufficient funds unless Child Nutrition has received and processed a parent/guardian request that no school meal charging be allowed.
  • Students accessing meals with insufficient funds will be charged for each meal and parent/guardians notified.It will be the responsibility of the parent/guardian to pay the charge and bring the student account to a positive balance.
  • A la Carte and non-student purchases cannot be charged.

Direct communication with households

All communication regarding unpaid meal balances will be directed to parents/guardians.  Students 16 or older may be communicated with directly, yet discreetly, as well.  Should a student ask about his or her meal account balance, Child Nutrition staff will communicate that information discreetly with the student.

Account Balance Refunds and Unclaimed Funds

Account balances for a student will be carried over to the next school year.  If a student is graduating or withdrawing with a positive account balance, a refund request form may be submitted.  Students that are withdrawing with a negative balance will be unable to receive an official transcript.  Graduating seniors will also have their diploma held until their debt is paid.  Unclaimed funds are turned over to the Washington State Department of Revenue.

Donated Funds

The Child Nutrition Office will equitably manage funds donated to offset unpaid student meal debts.  The donated funds will be distributed throughout the district accounts according to district processes.  The district welcomes families to donate excess funds left in their child’s Child Nutrition account, except in the case of households approved for reduced-priced meal benefits whose accounts must be refunded per federal requirements.

Repaying an NSF Check (non-sufficient funds at bank)

If the district receives an NSF check from a household during the school year, district guidelines state that no further checks will be accepted by the district for that current year.

Collecting Unpaid Meal Debt

The Child Nutrition department will monitor unpaid account balances and work with families to understand the child and parents’ situation in order to develop solutions to unpaid debt.  The district will make reasonable efforts to collect delinquent (overdue) unpaid meal charges and will coordinate communications with families to resolve the charges.  Meal account balances for a student will be carried over to the following school year.