Superintendent’s Memo #082-12

State seal, Commonwealth of Virginia

Department of Education

March 30, 2012

TO:  Division Superintendents

FROM:  Patricia I. Wright, Superintendent of Public Instruction

SUBJECT:  School Nutrition Programs Paid Lunch Equity (PLE) Guidance for SY 2012-2013

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s interim rule entitled, “National School Lunch Program:  School Food Service Account Revenue Amendments Related to the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010” requires school food authorities (SFAs) participating in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) to ensure sufficient funds are provided to the nonprofit school food service account for lunches served to students not eligible for free or reduced price meals.  The regulations allow two ways to meet this requirement:  through the prices charged for paid lunches or through other nonfederal sources provided to the nonprofit school food service account.

SY 2012-2013 Paid Lunch Equity (PLE) Calculations

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 requires that the average paid lunch price be adjusted annually.  For SY 2012-2013, school divisions must calculate a weighted average paid lunch price. School divisions which, on average, charged less than $2.51 for paid lunches are required to adjust their weighted average lunch price, or add nonfederal funds to the nonprofit school food service account to cover the difference. The amount of the per meal increase will be calculated using two percent plus the inflation factor of 2.18 percent, for a total of 4.18 percent, as specified in the law. The inflation rate is adjusted annually.  The law also caps the required increase in lunch prices at ten cents in any year.

The regulations allow for the price increase to be rounded down to the nearest five cents.  Some school divisions did not raise the price of paid lunches in SY 2011-2012 after the five cent round down was applied.  The regulatory Paid Lunch Equity (PLE) requirement was met; however, the new USDA regulations require school divisions to account for the unrounded adjustment.  The unrounded adjusted average paid lunch price requirement from the previous school year is used as the basis for the subsequent school year.

If a school division raised its weighted average paid lunch price above the required amount in SY 2011-2012, that excess paid lunch price increase is credited towards meeting the SY 2012-2013 paid lunch price requirement. Sufficient records to document any carry forward of the average price calculations must be maintained.

If a school division did not raise its weighted average paid lunch price sufficiently to meet the required amount in SY 2011-2012, the shortfall must be added to the total SY 2012-2013 paid lunch price adjustment requirement.

The Paid Lunch Equity (PLE) Tool, attached as an Excel workbook and discussed below, is required to be used to perform all these calculations.  By completing this PLE Tool, the weighted average paid lunch prices will be calculated and the credits and shortfalls from SY 2011-12 are automatically applied.

Use of Nonfederal Sources Calculation

School divisions that choose to contribute nonfederal sources to the nonprofit school food service account in lieu of raising paid lunch prices must also use the PLE tool to calculate the appropriate amount to contribute.   Nonfederal sources cannot be in-kind contributions nor revenue from the sale of foods sold as à la carte items.

Paid Lunch Equity (PLE) Tool for SY 2012-13 – Excel Workbook

The PLE Tool for SY 2012-13 is required to be completed by all school divisions.  This tool is designed to help school divisions calculate the required annual paid lunch price adjustment.  All school divisions must retain the completed spreadsheets as documentation.

This tool makes the following calculations:

The PLE Tool includes detailed user instructions and a report that school divisions can use to track the information needed to make the SY 2013-14 calculations.

A summary report of the number of meals served at each meal price for all school divisions for October 2010 and October 2011 is attached.  These numbers will be entered into the PLE Tool, as the first step to determine the unrounded adjusted average paid lunch price requirement from SY 2011-12 that is used as the basis for SY 2012-2013.  This data was extracted from the School Nutrition Programs Web system (SNPWeb).

The Office of School Nutrition Programs (SNP) will conduct training for all SNP Directors in the near future regarding this requirement.

If you have any questions or need additional information, please contact the school nutrition program specialist assigned to your division or Catherine Digilio Grimes, director of school nutrition programs, via e-mail at or by telephone at (804) 225-2074.



  1. Paid Lunch Equity Tool (Excel)
  2. Summary Report of Meals Served by Meal Price (PDF)