Program Frequently Asked Questions

  1. 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 LINQ Point of Sale software in which all students in Exchange-operated schools in the Pacific and Europe can find their school meal accounts. Parents, guardians, or students can place any desired amount of money into their account and can set spending limits. There are several options for making deposits into student accounts:
    • at the school (during cafeteria operational hours),
    • online at, or
    • at an Exchange PX / BX Customer Service.
    School meals and a la carte items can also be purchased with cash although this is not recommended. There is only one account per student. Both school meals and a la carte may be purchased using the same account. LINQ Connect ( allows parents/guardians to place restrictions on their student’s account such as spending limits and purchase restrictions as well as setting the frequency of purchases. For example: a parent or guardian can restrict their student to buying a la carte items only on Fridays. Parents/guardians may also contact their school foreman for help with setting account restrictions.

  2. How do I find out if my student is eligible for free or reduced-price meals?
    The Exchange encourages all families to apply online for free or reduced lunches. Students in Grades K-12 as well as all Universal Pre-K will need to apply online to qualify for free or reduced meal benefits. Sure Start students also need to apply; however, they are automatically approved for free meals as part of the Sure Start program. Families should apply online for benefits at

  3. What is a la 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. These a la carte items can be purchased to supplement meals brought from home or prepared school meals and by students who do not want to purchase a reimbursable school meal. Check with the school on your Installation to find out which a la carte food items and beverages they offer.

  4. What if my student has no money for lunch?
    The student will receive a regular school meal at the reimbursable meal cost. School cafeteria staff will feed the student and notify the parent/guardian of the debt via email. Please check with your school for the current price.

  5. 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 in the place of milk. For students who cannot drink milk due to allergies or other medical conditions, a signed statement from a medical authority is required along with a list of approved substitutes such as soy milk or lactose-free milk. The USDA has specific guidelines that must be adhered to for approved milk alternatives.

  6. Why do you offer flavored milk which contains additional sugar?
    Because studies show that students' milk consumption increases when flavored milk is offered, we do offer flavored milk as a way to encourage consumption. Although program approved flavored milk contains some added sugars, it usually contains less sugar than a comparable commercial product. The flavored milk we offer is non-fat and our unflavored milk is 1% low-fat milk.

  7. What if my student is allergic to milk, peanuts, etc. or has a gluten intolerance?
    If your student has a food allergy, please notify the cafeteria manager and school nurse. A signed, physician’s statement must be sent to the cafeteria stating the allergy. If replacing one food with another, this too must be included in the statement. For example, if the student has a wheat allergy, it should state approved grain substitutions.

  8. What happens if someone uses my student's account?
    Meal account numbers are unique to each student. This number should be kept confidential and should not be shared with other students. If someone uses the number other than the account holder, the POS software will notify* the cashier that the number has already been used for the purchase of a meal that day. If this should happen, the cafeteria manager will take the necessary steps to rectify the situation. *This notification does not apply to ala carte items. A parent/guardian may view purchases on and can also ask for a report on their student's account. To make this request, please contact the cafeteria manager.

  9. What happens to my student's money at the end of the school year?
    If your student has money left on his/her account at the end of the year, the money will be available on the first day of school the following year. Account balances, whether a credit or debt, follow the student from year to year and transfer when you relocate to another Exchange-operated school. If you are PCS-ing, please go to the Exchange to receive your refunds or pay off your outstanding balance.

  10. 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, payments for meals, a la carte sales and DoDEA funding.

  11. How does the USDA Commodity Donated Food Program work?
    Through the USDA FOODS Program, the USDA Food and Nutrition Service provides food to meet the nutritional needs of children and food-insecure 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 food-insecure 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 is a “Reimbursable Meal”?
    As part of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act 2010, the school meal program is required to offer five meal components at lunch (three meal components at breakfast). These five components are:
    • Meat or meat alternate
    • Fruit
    • Vegetable
    • Bread and grains
    • Milk
    In order for the meal to be considered “reimbursable,” students MUST take at least one-half cup of either a fruit or a vegetable plus at least two other full components. For example, if the main course included a grain and a meat/meat alternative, and the student also selected a milk, they would still need to choose one half cup of a fruit, vegetable, or a combination of the two for a complete meal. If the meal is not reimbursable, a la carte pricing will apply.

  13. What does "offer vs. serve" mean?
    Offer versus serve (OVS) was established in October 1975 when Public Law 94-105 mandated that students in high school shall not be required to accept offered foods they did not intend to consume. OVS goes hand-in-hand with the reimbursable meal and gives students the option to decline two components. OVS is required at the high school level, but AAFES also offers OVS for elementary and middle school students.

  14. 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 students. Since this program is for school age children, there is no federal assistance or reimbursement for meals served to adults. Therefore, the adult meal charge must be at least a combination of the basic reimbursement rate plus the guaranteed value of USDA commodities (per plate) and the preparation cost of the food. An adult should receive the same size meal as that of a secondary student for the established charge.

  15. 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 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 lost during the milling process. Because white bread does not contain the bran, it does not have as high a fiber content as whole grain bread. Fiber provides many health advantages. Many vitamins and minerals are also found in the bran 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 usually enriched with B vitamins, iron, calcium, and vitamin D. Whether it’s enriched white or whole grain, bread is an essential and inexpensive source of many nutrients needed by our bodies.

  16. Why does my school offer only lower fat (1% and skim) milk?
    Low fat and skim milk have a lower fat content making it consistent with the Dietary Guidelines of avoiding too much saturated fat 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 beneficial nutrients as higher fat milk.

  17. What is the School Meal Program doing to make school meals healthier?
    In addition to continually modifying our program to meet current any new, updated USDA guidelines, the School Meal Program is consistently striving to reduce fat, sodium, and sugar in the foods we serve and to promote whole-grain, fruit, and vegetable consumption. The AAFES menu planning objective is to offer foods that meet or exceed dietary guidelines and USDA meal patterns; meet diverse needs and cultural preferences of our students; meet student taste preferences; prepare to maintain quality and food safety of foods served; and promote a healthy lifestyle. The following practices support the intent of our menu planning objective:
    • A choice of three entrée options is offered daily; often those options are a hot entrée, a vegetarian option and a salad or sandwich option.
    • Fresh fruit and/or vegetables are offered daily.
    • Vegetables are prepared as appropriate with heart-healthy fats and minimal amounts of sodium. Vegetables are incorporated into entrée dishes like salads, wraps, stir-fry, and pasta dishes.
    • Offer at least two choices of fruit and two choices of vegetables daily. Students may take one or both choices of both fruit and vegetable offerings. Extra fruit and vegetable servings are available at no additional charge.
    • Offer Low fat (1%) milk and flavored non-fat (skim) milk daily.
    • A Registered Dietitian plans all menus to meet USDA meal pattern requirements.
    • Many of our whole grain bread products are specially formulated by the Exchange Bakeries in Europe and the Pacific to meet the USDA whole grain (WG) requirements, i.e., WG bread, WG tortillas, and WG sub rolls.
  18. Students with Disabilities and/or Special Dietary Needs
    A person with a disability is one with a physical impairment or mental impairment that limits one or more major activities. This includes students with food allergies or food intolerances. Whenever a student 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 student's diet,
    • The major life activity affected by the disability,
    • The food or food choices that must be omitted or substituted and the food or choice of foods that may be substituted.
    • Must be signed by a licensed medical authority.
    Send completed and signed Medical Statements to your local School Nurse and Cafeteria Manager. Menus that meet the student's dietary prescription or texture modification will be developed. Food Services staff will be trained on how to prepare these special meals if necessary.

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