Meal Charge Policies (TX)

Alexander Rony filed this request with the Texas Department of Agriculture of Texas.
Est. Completion None
Status
No Responsive Documents

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 Texas Public Information Act, 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: Texas Department of Agriculture

The Public Information Office of the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) has received your email request for information. Please be sure to provide complete and current contact information as we may have to contact you in the event that more information or a clarification is needed to complete your request, or for other issues related to your request.

TDA responds to requests within 10 business days from the date they are submitted. Requests received on a weekend, holiday, or non-business day will be processed on the next business day. For requests that will require large amounts of time or resources to respond, a cost may be incurred for providing the information. Prior to processing, TDA will contact you to provide a cost estimate for your approval.

If you have any questions, please contact our office at (512) 463-4075 or email Pub.Info@TexasAgriculture.gov<mailto:Pub.Info@TexasAgriculture.gov>.

From: Texas Department of Agriculture

Dear Alexander:

The Public Information Office of the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) has processed your request, which we received on 4/23/2018.

There is no responsive information. Texas does not have a state-level meal charge policy. This information is not retained or captured by TDA. It is the responsibility of each school food authority to retain their own meal charge policy. These policies are assessed during on-site Administrative Reviews.

If you should have any further questions, please feel free to contact us.

Sincerely,

Jessica Escobar

Assistant General Counsel

Public Information Office

General Counsel

Texas Department of Agriculture

512-463-4075 (voice)

800-509-1159 (fax)

pub.info@TexasAgriculture.gov<mailto:pub.info@TexasAgriculture.gov>

From: Texas Department of Agriculture

The Public Information Office of the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) has received your email request for information. Please be sure to provide complete and current contact information as we may have to contact you in the event that more information or a clarification is needed to complete your request, or for other issues related to your request.

TDA responds to requests within 10 business days from the date they are submitted. Requests received on a weekend, holiday, or non-business day will be processed on the next business day. For requests that will require large amounts of time or resources to respond, a cost may be incurred for providing the information. Prior to processing, TDA will contact you to provide a cost estimate for your approval.

If you have any questions, please contact our office at (512) 463-4075 or email Pub.Info@TexasAgriculture.gov<mailto:Pub.Info@TexasAgriculture.gov>.

From: Texas Department of Agriculture

Here is the final response that was sent out 4-23-2018, please confirm receipt.

Thanks.

Tonja Long
General Counsel/Public Information Office
(512) 463-4075

From: Alexander Rony

Hi Tonja, yes, I can confirm receipt of your office's April 23 "no responsive documents" response. It went directly to my email and not through MuckRock, which is why the automated reminders continued. I'll turn those off now and close out this request on my end. Thank you.

Alexander

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