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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
Child Nutrition Program Administration
Thursday, June 16, 2022
Paid Lunch Equity: Guidance for School Year 2022-23
**Updated information regarding the PLE Waiver and the use of school meal service funds can be found here:  This memo includes the following: "USDA has now provided guidance that the election of this waiver includes no repayment to the non-profit food service account should SFAs decide to fund paid lunches during the 2022-2023 school year."**
In preparation for a return to standard Child Nutrition operations in school year (SY) 2022-23, schools providing free, reduced price and paid meals should use the price last charged students, for many this will be SY 2019-20 prices, as the basis for SY 2022-23 Paid Lunch Equity (PLE) calculation, should the School Food Authority (SFA) decide to increase paid meal prices.

The PLE Waiver provides SFAs with the flexibility to not raise paid lunch prices in SY 2022-23. This waiver provides all SFAs, regardless of a positive or negative balance in the non-profit school food service account, the flexibility to price paid lunches at a level that best meets the needs of its student population. This includes decreasing paid lunch prices from previous levels. SFAs that decrease paid lunch prices may use non-federal sources or revenue from the sale of a la carte foods to support the decrease.

SFAs should carefully review budgets before adjusting paid lunch prices in SY 2022-23.  Some considerations include:
  • Return to National School Lunch Program reimbursement rates 
  • Return to reimbursement based on student eligibility (f/r/p)
  • Increased food costs
  • Potential decrease in participation as meals are no longer at no charge to all
  • Potential accrual to non-profit school food service account of student unpaid meal debt
Meal quality must not decrease as a result of lower paid lunch prices.

As a reminder, the PLE requirement applies to school lunch paid prices only.


PLE Tool

PLE Waiver Instructions

SFAs electing to use the PLE Waiver please follow the link to the Waiver Instruction Memo 

USDA Nondiscrimination Statement

In accordance with federal civil rights law and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) civil rights regulations and policies, this institution 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:, 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:

This institution is an equal opportunity provider.

Click here for Nondiscrimination Statement translations.