Program Frequently Asked Questions

  1. How does funding for the School Meal Program work?
    The Exchange operates the School Meal Program on a break-even basis. Revenue sources include USDA reimbursement, USDA commodities, parent payments, ala carte sales and DoDEA funding.

  2. How can school meals be purchased?
    For your convenience, the Exchange has a variety of ways students can purchase their school meals.
    The Exchange utilizes the Horizon “Fastlane” Point of Sale School pre-payment system in all-Exchange operated schools in the Pacific and Europe. Parents or students can place any desired amount of money into their account and can set daily spending limits; once an account is set up, deposits can either be made at the school (during cafeteria operational hours) or at the Exchange PX / BX Cashier Cage. School meals and ala carte items can also be purchased with cash though this is not recommended. The MyPaymentPlus system allows parents to place restrictions on their child's account to decide what a la carte items can be sold and the frequency. For example, parents can restrict their child to only buying a la carte items on Friday.

  3. How do I find out if my family is eligible for free or reduced price meals?
    Eligibility applications for free and reduced price meals are handled through the military community on your Installation. Check with your Community Service Division for the proper procedure. If your family is approved for free or reduced price meals, your child’s account will be set up to reflect free or reduced price meals and charged accordingly in the Fastlane system.

  4. What is the ala carte service?
    In addition to our regular school meal service, some Exchange school cafeterias offer a variety of food items and beverages for sale to students and school staff. Ala carte items can be purchased to supplement bag lunches from home or the regular school meal, and by secondary students who do not want to purchase the pattern school lunch meal. Check with the school on your Installation to find out which ala carte food items and beverages they offer. Ala carte items can be purchased through the Fastlane pre-paid accounts or with cash.

  5. What if my child has no money for lunch?
    School cafeteria staff will make special meal arrangements to feed your child and notify you of the situation. In most cases, the student will receive a regular school meal with instructions on the proper repayment method.

  6. Why can’t the milk be substituted?
    Milk is a required component in the National School Meal Program. Milk contributes important nutrients such as protein, calcium, riboflavin, Vitamin A and Vitamin D. No other food or beverage can be substituted for the milk. For students who can not drink milk due to milk allergies or other medical conditions, a medical slip from a medical authority is required with a list of approved substitutes such as soymilk or 100% fruit juice.

  7. Why do you offer flavored milk which contains additional sugar?
    Studies show that students' milk consumption increases when flavored milk is offered.. Although flavored milk contains added sugars, it is a compromise to encourage milk consumption to ensure students get the important nutrients listed above. Beginning in school year 2012-2013, all flavored milk will be non-fat milk as part of the new requirements from the USDA.

  8. What if my child is allergic to milk, peanuts, etc or has gluten intolerance?
    If your child has a food allergy, please notify the cafeteria manager and school nurse. A doctor's note must be sent to the cafeteria stating the allergy. If replacing one food with another, this too must be included in the doctor's letter. For example, if the child has a milk allergy, then the doctor's note must include that milk is to be replaced with juice or water.

  9. What happens if someone uses my child's account?
    Student meal account numbers are unique to each student. This number should be kept confidential and should not be shared with other students. If the number is used by someone other than the legitimate holder, the cash register will notify the cashier that the number has already been used for the purchase of a meal for that day. This does not include ala carte items. If this should happen, the cafeteria manager will take the necessary steps to rectify the situation. A parent may always ask for a report on their child's account. To make this request, please contact the cafeteria manager.

  10. What happens to my child's money at the end of the school year?
    If your child has money left on his/her account at the end of the year, the money will be available on the first day of the school the following year. Account balances, whether there is a credit or debt, follow the student from year to year. If you are PCSing, please go to the Exchange to close your account and receive your funds or pay off the balance.

  11. How does the USDA Commodity Donated Food Program work?
    Through the Commodity Food Program, the USDA Food and Nutrition Service provides food to meet the nutritional needs of children and needy adults. The program has a two-fold purpose:
    • To aid American farmers by stabilizing farm prices through the purchase of excess agricultural commodities
    • Improving the nutritional well-being of needy adults and the nation's school children.
    Under the current commodity donation system, USDA purchases commodities and arranges for their transportation to designated locations. Each school district food service department is allocated commodities based on the average daily participation in the National School Meal Program.

  12. What does "offer vs. serve" mean?
    Offer versus serve was established in October 1975 when Public Law 94-105 mandated that students in high school would not be required to accept offered foods they did not intend to consume. The five components of the meal include:

    • Meat or meat alternate
    • Fruit
    • Vegetable
    • Bread and grains
    • Milk
    Starting in school year 2012-2013, students MUST take ½ cup of either a fruit or a vegetable in addition to the three other components (meat, grain and dairy) for the meal to be reimbursable. For example, if the main course included a grain, a meat/meat alternative and the student also selected a milk, they would still need to choose ½ cup of a fruit, vegetable or a combination of the two for a complete meal. If a student only chooses 2 components (meat and grain or grain and dairy), the student must take a FULL serving (typically ½-1 cup) of a fruit or vegetable for the meal to be reimbursable. If the meal is not reimbursable, a la carte pricing will apply.

  13. Why is the adult charge higher than the student charge for the same amount of food?
    The intent of the National School Meal Program is to provide nutritious and low cost meals to children. Since this program is for children, there is no federal assistance or reimbursement for meals served to adults. Therefore, the adult meal charge has to be at least a combination of the basic reimbursement rate plus the guaranteed value of USDA commodities (per plate) and the cost to preparation of the food. An adult should receive the same size meal as that of a secondary student for the established charge.

  14. Are whole grain breads more nutritious than white bread?
    White bread and whole grain breads are not the same thing. When white flour is milled, the outer bran layer and the germ are separated. The germ is taken off because it contains fat. When the fat in the germ turns rancid, the flour is ruined. The bran is removed because it is coarse in texture, brown in color and has flavor that some people do not like. However, bran is where the fiber is located and is lost during the milling process. White bread does not contain the bran, therefore, does not have as high of fiber content as does whole grain breads. Vitamins and minerals are found in the bran layer and wheat germ of whole grain items, but are not found in refined, white flour. Although nutrients are lost when white flour is milled, white flour is then enriched with B vitamins, iron, calcium and vitamin D. But whether it is enriched white bread or whole grain bread, bread is an essential and inexpensive source of the nutrients needed by our bodies.

  15. Why does my school serve only lower fat (1% and skim) milk?
    Because low fat and skim milk have a lower fat content, it is consistent with the Dietary Guidelines to avoid too much fat, saturated fat and cholesterol in the diet. When low fat or skim milk is offered, only the fat content changes. Low fat or skim milk has all the calcium, Vitamins A & D, protein and other nutrients as higher fat milk.

  16. What is the School Meal Program doing to make school meals healthier?
    In addition to modifying our program to meet the new USDA guidelines, the School Meal Program is continually striving to reduce fat, sodium and sugar in the foods served and promote whole grain, fruit and vegetable consumption.
    • Fresh fruit served daily
    • Vegetables prepared with olive oil and Mrs. DASH instead of butter and salt. Vegetables are incorporated into entrée dishes like salads, wraps, stir-fry, and pasta dishes.
    • Two choices of fruit and vegetables offered daily. Extra servings available at no additional charge.
    • "No frying" zone – only baked items.
    • Daily vegetarian option
    • Low fat (1%) and skim milk are offered daily and in a variety of flavors.
    • Reduced fat and sodium entrees like macaroni and cheese, chicken bites, and whole grain chicken corn dogs
    • Increased number of whole grain items prepared fresh at Exchange Bakeries in Europe and the Pacific like pizza crust, bread, tortillas, and sub rolls and whole grain products including pasta, rice, pierogies, pancakes and egg rolls
  17. Children with Disabilities Requiring Special Meals
    A person with a disability is one with a physical impairment or mental impairment that limits one or more major activities. Whenever a child is unable to eat or drink one or more of the required meal components, we must have a medical statement signed by a physician. A medical statement must identify the following:
    • The disability and an explanation of why the disability restricts the child's diet
    • The major life activity affected by the disability
    • The food or choice foods that must be omitted or substituted and must be signed by the physician
  18. Children with Special Dietary Needs
    For participants with food allergies and food intolerances, we will make substitutions when supported by a statement signed by a recognized medical authority. For non-disabled participants the supporting statement shall include:
    • An identification of the medical or other special dietary needs, which restricts the child's diet.
    • The food or foods to be omitted from the participant's diet and the food or choice of foods that may be substituted.
    Send completed and signed Medical Statements to your local School Nurse. Menus that meet the child's dietary prescription and / or texture modification will be developed. Food Services staff will be trained on how to prepare these special meals.