Meal Information for the 2023-2024 School Year

For School Year 2023-2024, all students will receive free breakfast and lunch at school. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has provided funding through the State Budget.

We still strongly encourage families to fill out the household application for free and reduced lunch if they feel they may be eligible based on income levels and are not notified as being directly certified. If many families complete and return the household application and are found eligible, we will receive more money from the Federal Government for free school lunches now and in the future. We will also receive more money for other school programs. Filling out this form also helps our community provide free summer meals to all kids, and free meals to kids in childcare. The information you provide is confidential. We follow strict federal rules to keep your information private.

Please click here for a household application.

In addition, we also encourage families to apply for SNAP benefits.  SNAP provides monthly cash benefits (on an EBT card) to purchase groceries for eligible families.  To apply for SNAP, visit the Department of Transitional Assistance or call the Project Bread FoodSource Hotline at 1-800-645-8333.  If you are unsure whether your family is eligible, the FoodSource Hotline can assist you with eligibility questions.  Families approved for SNAP are directly eligible to receive free meals at school and do not need to fill out an application for free and reduced-price meals.

Should you have any questions regarding the lunch program, please contact:

Michelle McKenna
Business Manager
978-772-3293 x113
[email protected]

Lunch Program Important UPDATE 

Please click HERE to review an Important Update regarding state requirements that need to be met for every free lunch and breakfast provided. 

Lunch Menus

Daily breakfast offerings will be a bagel, yogurt with granola, or cereal with milk, fruit, and a cheese stick. A limited number of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches will be available as an option at lunchtime every day.

Unfortunately, there are shortages in the food supply chain nationwide. Districts are experiencing unavailable items or last-minute replacement/substitutions. Our cafeteria is dealing with items that have no substitution/replacement option and deliveries have been pushed out a day or in some cases several days. Hence, our menu is subject to change. We will do our very best to notify you when there are changes. We appreciate your patience and understanding as we work through these issues with vendors. We are excited to continue serving delicious and healthy school meals this school year.

Pandemic Food Assistance/ Pandemic – EBT (P-EBT)

DTA Connect - Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance  – Massachusetts EBT Program

Pandemic Food Assistance Information

Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) | – information on eligibility and how to apply, receive, and use benefits

FAQs — Massachusetts P-EBT ( – Frequently asked questions regarding P-EBT

Massachusetts P-EBT ( – Information about P-EBT cards (lost card, card pinning, card issues) and timing of funds issuance

Get Help (  or (800) 645-8333 for information on access to other food assistance

DTA Assistance Line at (877) 382-2363

Affordable Connectivity Program 

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s Office for Food and Nutrition Programs is pleased to share information about a new benefit for households. As part of the newly passed Infrastructure Law, the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) was created to provide eligible households up to $30/month (or $75/month for households living on Tribal lands) toward their internet bills, as well as a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet.  

All households with a child who was approved to receive free or reduced-price school meals under the National School Lunch Program or the School Breakfast Program, within the last 12 months, including children who attend schools participating in the Community Eligibility Provision, are eligible for ACP benefits. Households are also independently eligible if (1) their income is at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level ($55,500 for a family of four); or (2) a member of the household participates in certain other Federal benefit programs—including, among others, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), Medicaid, and Federal Public Housing Assistance. Families can check their eligibility, sign up, and find fully covered plans at (mobile-accessible and available in Spanish) or by calling 877-384-2575.

Home - ACP - Universal Service Administrative Company ( 

The Parker Cafeteria
About Our Program


Although Massachusetts has approved universal free meals, which means one free breakfast and one free lunch per day per child, there are circumstances in which your child may incur lunch fees.  If they purchase an additional lunch or breakfast or additional items beyond what is included in the meal, there will be a charge.

Parker is pleased to offer parents the ability to manage their child’s nutrition account over the Internet by using PaySchools Central, an online school management tool. This service benefits schools, parents and students. Cashiers will be able to move the payment line quicker; parents and guardians do not have to worry about the money not reaching school and students never have to worry about carrying cash or losing meal tickets.  

With PaySchools Central, parents and guardians can log in at any time to make a deposit to their child’s account, view their child’s account balance, set up recurring deposits to their child’s account, set up e-mail notifications when their child’s account falls below a certain dollar amount, or request a report showing what the child has purchased on their account. In order to create your child’s nutrition account, an ID number is necessary. Parents of new students will receive this ID number before setting up their child's account. Parents of returning students should have already received this number. Please let us know if you need it again.

Payments processed before 9:00 pm ET should post to the student’s account the next morning, in most cases. Payments made the same morning will post to the student account the following day. Checks and cash will still be accepted to be deposited into your child’s nutrition account at the office.  

Transactions processed by PaySchools Central are safe and secure using Secure Socket Link, SSL, technology with Digicert. With this technology, schools can be assured that all student information, credit card information and all other student data will be highly encrypted and secure. There is a transaction fee that is assessed to each transaction. The fee is only charged when you add money to your child’s account. You can view their account balance and see what they have purchased without having to incur this fee. If you have multiple children enrolled at Parker, you can add money to each child’s nutrition account during the same transaction. However, if you have multiple children at Parker, you cannot transfer funds online between your children’s accounts, but if you contact the Business Office, we can transfer the funds for you.

Below are  a series of questions and answers detailing this lunch system.  

If you have any questions, please contact:

Michelle McKenna ([email protected]) or
Laurel Ronan ([email protected]).



As you know, Parker does things differently, and that includes school lunch. We work hard to make "from scratch" meals everyone will enjoy, made the way you would at home; fresh, nutritious, visually appealing and tasty. We buy quality products from reputable vendors, small companies, local stores and  farms. We source products that fit into a healthy menu and a healthy planet. We buy food without preservatives, high fructose corn syrup or high sodium content. We use recycled and recyclable paper products and this year have moved to biodegradable cornstarch based flatware instead of plastic. Most of our plastic cups are corn based material.

Our child nutrition online payment and account maintenance system is through PaySchools Central.

  • Breakfast includes a choice of one item from the daily menu, a piece of fruit, and a drink.
  • Lunch includes a choice of the daily entree, sandwich or salad bar, all sides, a piece of fruit, and a drink.

We offer satisfying portions and the students are encouraged to take as many sides as they like.

Salad as an Entree includes a serving of protein (chicken, beans, cheese, tofu, etc), a roll, a piece of fruit, and dessert if we have one that day. Additional portion of protein may be purchased at an additional cost.

Disability Based Meal Modifications

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) nondiscrimination regulation as well as the regulations governing the Child Nutrition Programs and the Americans with Disabilities Act, make it clear that substitutions to the regular meal must be made, at no extra cost, for children who are unable to eat meals served in any Child Nutrition Programs (CNP) because of their disabilities.  If your child has a diagnosed disability that restricts their diet and would like to participate in school breakfast or lunch please contact Debbie Bush [email protected] to discuss options.


Lunch Program Registration Reminders:
  • All payments not made online at PaySchools Central should be brought to the office first thing in the morning, especially if the account balance is low enough that the child may not be able to purchase lunch or breakfast any longer.
  • All students will need to carry their Student ID Card even though lunch is free.
  • Please check balances regularly and be sure you have money on your account. It is expected that any account with a negative balance be funded promptly.
  • Participants with a low or excessively negative balance will not be able to purchase lunch in line, and will instead be asked to visit the kitchen to receive a "courtesy lunch" after the lunch line has been served. According to the USDA, we are legally obligated to collect any owed funds from a served reimbursable meal.
  • All other information/details may be read in the Q&A below.

Questions and Answers About Our Point of Sale
and Online School Nutrition Account System

What is the Point of Sale System (POS)?

Parker implemented a Point of Sale system (POS) allowing students to have lunch accounts. This system looks and feels similar to that of the system your children had in elementary school. It integrates with Rediker, our current student information management system.

Why are ID cards going to be important?

Students will be using their ID cards at the register as we need to track student meals - even though the first meal is free of charge. It will be important for the students to carrying their ID cards on their person on a daily basis! Staff and students will receive digital images of their personal Parker ID. The image will be sent to their Parker email address. In addition, physical ID’s will be handed out in advisory. If a student loses or forgets an ID but has a smart phone, there is no excuse for not presenting their ID in the lunch line. These digital IDs can be saved and opened on smart phones as the students are waiting in the service line. If you would like a replacement of a lost physical ID, please see Monique Beganski in the Principal’s Office. The cost to replace a physical ID is $5. If your child needs assistance finding their digital ID, they should visit the Technology Office. Remember, the more kids with their cards ready, the smoother lunch service will go.

What if my child loses their ID card?

They should see Monique Beganski immediately for a replacement. They can also use the digital ID provided, if they have a smart phone. If they do not have a smart phone, until a new card arrives (after requesting one from Monique) the cashier at each register will be able to look up your child’s account using their pin number or name. When the cards are swiped at the registers, the photos on the account matched to the person making the purchase. We are trying our very best to assure that the account is only being accessed by the proper student.

How do I create my student’s nutritional account?

You have been provided your child’s unique ID number. Please reach out to the Business Office if you need it again. This number will be needed to create your child’s nutritional account. Once these emails are received parents and guardians will be able to set up the nutrition accounts, put money onto their student’s nutrition accounts, setup reminders, and setup auto refill options. If you have lost or misplaced the ID number please reach out to Michelle McKenna or Laurel Ronan.

How much are school lunches?

The first breakfast and lunch is free each day. Additional meals and meal components will have additional costs.

Will cash be still be accepted at the registers?

We are no longer accepting cash or checks at the register. All payments not made online at PaySchools Central should be brought to the office first thing in the morning, especially if the account balance is low enough that the child may not be able to purchase lunch or breakfast any longer.

Can one pay for their Sibling or their Friend with their nutrition account?

No. Students cannot and will not be allowed use their ID card to pay for a friend’s lunch. In addition, they are not allowed to pay for their sibling’s lunch either due to the fact the cashier cannot identify in the POS system who are siblings. If funds are needed to be transferred between sibling accounts please contact the Business Office to assist you.

Is there a transaction fee for using the service?

Yes, the fee is $1.95 for ACH (banks accounts) and 4.75% for credit cards per transactions. You can still chose to send a check in to school, if you wish to avoid these fees. Checks should be made payable to The Parker Charter School.

How long will it take for my deposit to be reflected into the system?

Payments processed before 9:00 PM ET should post to the student’s account the next morning, in most cases. Payments made the same morning will post to the student account the following day.

Can I still fund my child’s nutrition account with cash?

Yes. Checks and cash will still be accepted to be deposited into your child’s nutrition account.

Will I be notified if my child’s balance is running low?

Yes. When creating your child’s account, parents and guardians are able to set up recurring deposits and set up e-mail notifications when their child’s account falls below a certain dollar amount. In addition, the Business Office will be sending notices home as well once the account gets to a low balance.

What if I forget to add money to my child’s nutrition account, and the balance is too low to pay for a breakfast or lunch?

The system will allow account to go slightly negative for just these types of situations. It is expected that the account be funded as soon as possible. Parker will no longer be allowing negative balances in the range of $50-100 in the program, as it violates best practice. Please be aware that if the balance on your child’s account becomes excessively low – below $12, you will get an immediate phone call from the school. We do not want to embarrass the children, but we NEED accounts funded in a timely manner. As always, please reach out to the Business Office or Parker’s website for the Free and Reduced lunch application at any point during the school year.

What if my child or children currently qualify for Free and Reduced Lunch and Breakfast?

Their free and reduced lunch status is automatically built into the system. When your child is at the register, they will still need to present their Student IDs. In an effort to maintain confidentiality, no one, not even the child, will be aware that a purchase is part of the free and reduced program other than the cashier handling the transaction. Also please be very aware that the Free and Reduced lunch program also only covers one full lunch and one full breakfast per day. If your child on free or reduced lunch wishes for more than what comprises the meal, they will be required to pay full price for the additional items.

What if my child withdraws or graduates from Parker and has a balance on their nutrition account?

All balances will be refunded, OR, parents or guardians may choose to transfer the balance to an enrolled sibling’s nutrition account, or to donate the balance back to the school.


Public Release Statement

Francis  Parker Charter Essential School announced its policy for free and reduced price lunch and breakfast for those students unable to pay the full price for meals and snacks under the National School Lunch & Breakfast Program.  Please click here for a full version of our public release statement.

Please feel free to contact the Cafeteria with any questions (978-772-3293 x 146).


Nondiscrimination Statement

The Francis Parker Charter Essential School is publishing our compliance with the USDA Nondiscrimination requirements. Please click here for our full statement.


WIC logo and phone number 1-800-WIC-1007

Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)

WIC is a nutrition program that provides healthy foods, nutrition education, breastfeeding support, and referrals to healthcare and other services, free of charge, to Massachusetts families who qualify.

SNAP logo - clipart of a green paper bag with colorful groceries

SNAP benefits (formerly food stamps)

Do you need help buying healthy food? You may be eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) administers SNAP benefits. SNAP provides a monthly benefit to buy nutritious foods. To get SNAP, you must be low-income and be a U.S. citizen or legal noncitizen (restrictions apply). Eligibility for SNAP benefits depends on financial and nonfinancial criteria.

Logo image LOVES & Fishes with line drawing of wheat

Do you need help with groceries?

Are you choosing between heating your home, buying medications or feeding yourself and your family? If you live in Ayer, Devens, Dunstable, Groton, Harvard, Littleton or Shirley, we can help, no income requirement questions asked!