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ERIC Number: ED504603
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2009-Jan-30
Pages: 46
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
Meal Counting and Claiming by Food Service Management Companies in the School Meal Programs: Briefing for the Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies, House Committee on Appropriations. November 21, 2008. GAO-09-156R
US Government Accountability Office
The federal government spends about $10 billion each year to provide meals to over 30 million students through the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs. However, a 2007 study estimated that of this amount, $860 million (8.6 percent) in school year 2005-2006 was paid improperly because of errors in the number of meals counted and claimed for reimbursement. These programs are administered by the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) through state agencies that, in turn, oversee local school food authorities (SFA). SFAs that participate in the lunch and breakfast programs receive federal cash reimbursements through the state agency for each meal served, and in the lunch program they also receive USDA commodity donations based on the number of meals served. In return, SFAs must serve meals that meet federal nutrition requirements and offer meals free or at a reduced price to students whose family's income falls below certain thresholds. The United States Government Accountability Office studied the role of Food Service Management Companies FSMCs) in managing meal count data used to support the federal reimbursement claim and examined: (1) whether policies and regulations USDA provides states and SFAs on ensuring meal-counting and -claiming accuracy differ when meal services are managed by FSMCs compared with when they are managed by SFAs; and (2) whether there are differences in the accuracy of meal counting and claiming when meal services are managed by FSMCs compared to when meal services are managed by SFAs. The study found that USDA policies and regulations establish an oversight review framework for meal counting and claiming in which most requirements are generally the same for meal services managed by SFAs and FSMCs, with certain additional requirements that are specific to FSMC-managed programs, such as annual state review of SFA contracts with FSMCs and periodic visits by SFAs to monitor FSMC operations. Data also shows that meal-counting and -claiming errors occur at similar or somewhat lower rates when FSMCs manage meal services compared to when SFAs manage meal services. Similarly, FNS and state officials we interviewed said that FSMC-managed programs are no more likely to experience meal-counting and -claiming problems than SFA-managed programs. When SFAs contract with FSMCs to operate their school meal programs, a robust system of internal controls can help mitigate the risk that they will incur financial losses from FSMC counting and claiming errors--either because they are held responsible for overpayments or because they do not receive the total amount of federal funds to which they are entitled. Appended are: (1) Procurement of Point-of-Sale Systems; and (2) Standard Errors for Estimates. (Contains 22 footnotes.
US Government Accountability Office. 441 G Street NW, Washington, DC 20548. Tel: 202-512-6000; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Elementary Secondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: US Government Accountability Office
Identifiers - Location: United States