Pricing of Meals for Students, Debt, Alternate Meals

National School Lunch Program

Paid Lunch Equity Calculations for School Year 2015-16

The Paid Lunch Equity (PLE) provision of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 requires school food authorities (SFAs) to ensure that sufficient funds are paid to the school food service account to cover the costs of paid student lunches.

The PLE requirement does not apply to SFAs that provide all school lunches at no charge, such as residential child care institutions or SFAs under Provision 2 or 3 procedures.

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)-Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) Memorandum (Memo) SP 3-2015 Paid Lunch Equity: School Year 2015-2016 Calculations requires any SFA which charged less than $2.70 on average for paid lunches in school year (SY) 2014-2015 to adjust their average price or provide additional non-federal funds to the food service account.

USDA SY 2015-16 Paid Lunch Equity Tool

USDA-FNS Memo SP 3-2015 has an attachment that provides instructions for SFAs using the Paid Lunch Equity: School Year 2015-2016 Tool. The PLE Tool is an Excel spreadsheet used to determine how much the SFA is required to increase its average paid student lunch price from school year 2014-2015 to school year 2015-2016.

The following clarifications are made to assist SFAs in completing the PLE Tool:

• The SY 2014-2015 Unrounded Price used in Step 1 of the PLE Tool was the actual price calculated for SY 2014-2015. For instance, if the unrounded requirement was $2.08, but the SFA opted to round down to $2.05, the calculation for SY 2015-2016 is based on the $2.08 unrounded requirement.

• In Minnesota, SFAs can use state aid payments of seven cents per paid student lunch as non-federal source contributions toward the required average paid student lunch price.

• SFAs have the option of using paid breakfasts as non-federal source contributions toward the required average paid student lunch price. In Minnesota, the amount contributed per paid lunch equals:

‘Number of paid breakfasts served in SY 2014-2015’ times $0.55 (state payment) divided by the ‘Number of paid lunches served in SY 2014-2015.’

• The maximum required increase to the average paid student lunch price is 10 cents.


Annually, the SFA must fully document its paid lunch price calculation and any deciding factors used to set lunch prices. This documentation will be reviewed during Minnesota Department of Education (MDE)-FNS monitoring reviews.


For SY 2015-2016, an SFA may be eligible for an exemption from paid lunch revenue requirements if the SFA has been certified as meeting the meal pattern requirements, and can demonstrate that the required increase to paid lunch prices would cause the SFA to exceed the three-month operating balance limit to the school food service account (7 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) § 210.9(b)(2), § 210.14(b)). However, in reviewing the exemption request, MDE must consider whether there are other necessary or desirable uses for the funds to meet program requirements and goals, or to address deficiencies in program operations (USDA-FNS Memo SP 28-2014, dated March 20, 2014).

All exemption requests must be submitted to MDE-FNS a minimum of two weeks prior to the date an MDE determination is needed. Access the Questions and Documentation Required for PLE Exemption Request for the criteria and suggested documentation needed for FNS to fully process an exemption request.