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Office of P-20 Education Policy
Child Nutrition Program Administration
89 Washington Avenue, Room 375 EBA, Albany, NY 12234
Phone: (518) 473-8781 Fax: (518) 473-0018

School Food Service Directors/Managers
Frances N. O'Donnell, Coordinator
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Using Vending Machines to Provide Reimbursable Meals in the School Meal Programs

    There is a growing interest among school food authorities (SFAs) on the use of vending machines to provide reimbursable meals in the school meal programs.  USDA has provided the following guidance for SFAs that are considering whether a meal vending machine could be successfully incorporated into their National School Lunch (NSLP) and School Breakfast Programs (SBP).

    SFAs must be aware that any vending machine that provides a reimbursable school meal is subject to all program regulations and represents an extension of the school food service area.  Therefore, school meal vending machines are subject to the same procedures, menu planning requirements, competitive food rules, and offer versus serve requirements that are applicable to meals offered on a service line with a cashier.  Also, as a reminder, any use of Program funds for obtaining and maintaining vending machines to provide reimbursable meals must be in accordance with the procedures set forth in 7 CFR 210.21, as applicable, concerning the procurement of supplies, food, equipment and services.

    It is the SFA's responsibility to ensure that a vending machine used to serve reimbursable meals is operated in compliance with program regulations.  For example, the SFA must ensure that a machine can properly dispense a reimbursable meal and accurately document when a reimbursable meal has been selected by an eligible student.  Moreover, SFAs will need to ensure that the use of the vending machine does not allow an eligible student to receive more than one reimbursable meal per service period (e.g., one meal through the lunch line and a second meal through the vending machine).  It is critical that any identity confirmation procedure does not overtly identify a child as receiving a free or reduced price meal.  Additionally, as a reminder, all reimbursable school meals, including vended meals, must be priced as a unit.

    If your vending machine provides a variety of meals, remember that at all times students must be able to obtain all required items of the meal.  For example, if you have 15 full lunch meals plus other meal combinations with fewer components available under offer versus serve, once the 15 full complete meals are gone, the rest of the "meals" cannot be claimed, since students could never obtain a complete meal.  Consequently, be sure you are aware of this regulation and plan accordingly.

    Prior to the use of vending machines to serve reimbursable meals, an SFA must notify the State agency (NYSED) of their intent to do so.  At this time we still have received only one request.  We must then include the vending machines in any monitoring review to ensure that these machines, and their use, are in compliance with Program regulations.

    USDA recognizes that vending machines may play an expanding role in the operation of the National School Lunch and Breakfast Program.  Personnel policies, labor costs, pressure on lunch room space, class schedules, and limited time all contribute to the need to explore more efficient and effective methods of delivering these important nutrition benefits to students.  It is also critical that we ensure the proper delivery of program services to students without unnecessarily inhibiting innovation.

    Please click here to access the Questions and Answers (Q&As) USDA has received and additional guidance in the use of vending machines.

    Please direct all requests and related questions on vending machines used to provide reimbursable meals to Sandra Ragule at 518-474-3956 so that we are aware of emerging issues.

USDA Nondiscrimination Statement

In accordance with Federal civil rights law and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) civil rights regulations and policies, the USDA, its Agencies, offices, and employees, and institutions participating in or administering USDA programs are prohibited from discriminating based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability, age, or reprisal or retaliation for prior civil rights activity in any program or activity conducted or funded by USDA. 

Persons with disabilities who require alternative means of communication for program information (e.g. Braille, large print, audiotape, American Sign Language, etc.), should contact the Agency (State or local) where they applied for benefits. Individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing or have speech disabilities may contact USDA through the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877-8339.  Additionally, program information may be made available in languages other than English.

To file a program complaint of discrimination, complete the USDA Program Discrimination Complaint Form, (AD-3027) found online at:, and at any USDA office, or write a letter addressed to USDA and provide in the letter all of the information requested in the form. To request a copy of the complaint form, call (866) 632-9992. Submit your completed form or letter 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;

(2)     fax: (202) 690-7442; or

(3)     email:

This institution is an equal opportunity provider.


For Nondiscrimination Statement translations, click here.

Los demás programas de asistencia nutricional del FNS, las agencias estatales y locales, y sus beneficiarios secundarios, deben publicar el siguiente Aviso de No Discriminación:

De conformidad con la Ley Federal de Derechos Civiles y los reglamentos y políticas de derechos civiles del Departamento de Agricultura de los EE. UU. (USDA, por sus siglas en ingles), se prohíbe que el USDA, sus agencias, oficinas, empleados e instituciones que participan o administran programas del USDA discriminen sobre la base de raza, color, nacionalidad, sexo, discapacidad, edad, o en represalia o venganza por actividades previas de derechos civiles en algún programa o actividad realizados o financiados por el USDA.

Las personas con discapacidades que necesiten medios alternativos para la comunicación de la información del programa (por ejemplo, sistema Braille, letras grandes, cintas de audio, lenguaje de seas americano, etc.), deben ponerse en contacto con la agencia (estatal o local) en la que solicitaron los beneficios. Las personas sordas, con dificultades de audición o discapacidades del habla pueden comunicarse con el USDA por medio del Federal Relay Service [Servicio Federal de Retransmisión] al (800) 877-8339. Además, la información del programa se puede proporcionar en otros idiomas.

Para presentar una denuncia de discriminación, complete el Formulario de Denuncia de Discriminación del Programa del USDA, (AD-3027) que está disponible en linea en: y en cualquier oficina del USDA, o bien escriba una carta dirigida al USDA e incluya en la carta toda la información solicitada en el formulario. Para solicitar una copia del formulario de denuncia, llame al (866) 632-9992. Haga llegar su formulario lleno o carta al USDA por:

(1)     correo: U.S. Department of Agriculture
         Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights
         1400 Independence Avenue, SW
         Washington, D.C. 20250-9410;

(2)     fax: (202) 690-7442; o

(3)     correo electró

Esta institución es un proveedor que ofrece igualdad de oportunidades.