Meal Charge Policies (MO)

Alexander Rony filed this request with the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education of Missouri.

It is a clone of this request.

Due May 4, 2018
Est. Completion None
Status
Awaiting Response

Communications

From: Alexander Rony

To Whom It May Concern:

I. Background Information

On July 8, 2016, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service sent a memorandum to all state directors of child nutrition programs entitled, "Unpaid Meal Charges: Local Meal Charge Policies." That memorandum is available here: https://fns-prod.azureedge.net/sites/default/files/cn/SP46-2016os.pdf.

The memorandum set a July 1, 2017 deadline for all school food authorities (SFAs) operating the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) or School Breakfast Program (SBP) to have a written meal charge policy. This policy would apply to children who lack money for school meals at the full or reduced rate. Policies may be set by the state or by SFAs. According to the USDA's memorandum, "Policies developed at the SFA level must be provided to the State agency during the Administrative Review."

II. Requested Records

Pursuant to the The Missouri Sunshine Law, I hereby request the following records:

1. A copy of any state-level meal charge policies to be implemented by all school food authorities (SFAs) operating the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) or School Breakfast Program (SBP) in the state.
2. Copies of meal charge policies developed by school food authorities and provided to the state, as directed by the USDA's July 2016 memorandum.

I do not need multiple documents or versions if they repeat the same information, and I am sensitive to the possibility that my second item (copies of SFA-developed policies) may take awhile in the search phase depending on how your state agency received and stored those records. I am willing to discuss these and any other issues further to make fulfillment more manageable for your office. I prefer being contacted through the email address listed in my submission, but I am willing to talk directly by email (alexander.rony@sierraclub.org) or phone (415-977-5739) if needed.

I would prefer the request be filled electronically, by e-mail attachment if available or CD-ROM if not. For databases, please export to a flat file.

III. Fees

If there are any fees for searching or copying these records, please inform me in advance of fulfilling the request. I am willing to pay up to $10.

I would also like to request a waiver of all fees in that the disclosure of the requested information is in the public interest and will contribute significantly to the public's understanding of how schools receiving federal nutrition assistance treat children who don't have enough money for food. This issue, and the related "lunch shaming" practices designed to force parents to pay their children's meal debt, have been top news stories for the past year throughout the country.

The Sierra Club is a national environmental nonprofit with no commercial interest in obtaining the requested information. Instead, our organization intends to analyze and disseminate the requested information free of charge so that the public has a single, clear location to identify meal charge policies around the nation. The Sierra Club and its supporters have demonstrated interest and expertise in the subject area by sending tens of thousands of letters to Congress about lunch shaming and anti-hunger programs, and by researching and identifying hundreds of meal charge policies across the nation.

In addition, I ask to be categorized as a representative of the news media. The bulk of my professional duties at the Sierra Club entails planning and writing content about public policy, including analyzing public record responses, coordinating public dissemination plans, and composing mass communications to our supporters. Here are a few examples of my work, or articles based on my work:

https://www.sierraclub.org/planet/2017/09/thousands-usda-research-jobs-stalled-during-hiring-freeze
https://sierraclub.org/planet/2017/04/hiring-freeze-prevented-epa-filling-hundreds-jobs
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/to-your-health/wp/2017/05/19/nearly-700-vacancies-at-cdc-because-of-trump-administration-hiring-freeze/

The Sierra Club has the ability and intention to disseminate the information it receives through this request. The information may be shared through emails to an audience reaching into the millions, Facebook and Twitter posts reaching tens of thousands of followers, articles on our often-visited website, and analysis provided to the media.

Thank you in advance for your anticipated cooperation in this matter. I look forward to receiving your response.

Sincerely,

Alexander Rony
Sierra Club

From: Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

Dear Mr. Alexander Rony,

We have received your request for public records pursuant to the Missouri Sunshine Law, Chapter 610, RSMO. Your specific request is as follows:
April 23, 2018
To Whom It May Concern:
I. Background Information

From: Alexander Rony

Dear Mr. Thornton,

Thank you for your communication regarding my Missouri Sunshine Law request. You requested a fee of $237.00, but I did not receive a response regarding my request for a public interest fee waiver. Documentation on the Missouri Attorney General website (https://ago.mo.gov/docs/default-source/publications/missourisunshinelaw.pdf?sfvrsn=20 and http://ago.mo.gov/missouri-law/sunshine-law/sample-language-forms/records-request-form) indicates that your office can grant such a waiver. Has your office issued a determination regarding my request for a fee waiver?

Thank you,
Alexander Rony

From: Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

Dear Mr. Rony,

We have considered your request for a waiver of fees. Pursuant to Section 610.026(1) RSMo, and in keeping with the practice of this agency, we have determined not to provide a waiver of fees.

Please contact me if you have any questions.

Sincerely,

Sarah G. Madden
Coordinator, Legal Services
Governmental Affairs
Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
Office: 573-751-3527
dese.mo.gov

From: Alexander Rony

Dear Ms. Madden,

Thank you for your quick reply. I am wondering if you could give me a reason as to why my request for a fee waiver was denied under Section 610.026 RSMo, which provides for waivers or reductions of fees when the request "is in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the public governmental body and is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requester." I have indicated my non-commercial interests and goals for increased public understanding around notable public school policies. In addition, Section 610.011 RSMo states that "Sections 610.010 to 610.200 shall be liberally construed," appearing to give me the benefit of the doubt.

Respectfully,
Alexander Rony

From: Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

Dear Mr. Rony,

As per our previous email, we have considered your request for a fee waiver, and we have determined not to grant it. Please note that Section 610.026(1) RSMo does not require public governmental bodies undertake additional steps with respect to a request for a waiver of fees.

Respectfully,

Sarah G. Madden
Coordinator, Legal Services
Governmental Affairs
Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
Office: 573-751-3527
dese.mo.gov

From: Alexander Rony

Due to the lack of appeal and accountability measures in the Missouri Sunshine Law regarding egregious fee waiver decisions made in error, I regretfully must allow this request to be closed as I am unable to pay your high estimate.

Alexander

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