Friday, June 8, 2018
Mendocino County Grand Jury finds school meals not fully funded
The Mendocino County Grand Jury in its latest report about the Mendocino County School Nutrition Programs found that federal and state reimbursements for school meal programs do not meet all costs for 10 of the 11 Mendocino County school districts.
As a result, districts have to use unrestricted funds to pay for staff and program needs. The report recommended that the Mendocino County Office of Education employ a Nutrition Services Director who is also a registered dietician to advise and consult with the county’s eleven school districts.
The grand jury also said that a Nutrition Services Director would reduce program costs to smaller districts. The director could contract for uniform computer software for student identification, nutrition education, and menu development. The development of joint food contracts and bulk ordering would reduce program costs and improve the quality of food served to students. The director would also monitor state and federal legislation and alert districts to policy changes that may affect school food programs.
Every three years the California Department of Education monitors meal programs in each school to ensure conformity to the regulations. Irregularities and program non-compliance result in financial penalties that compound the financial burden on school districts’ unrestricted funds.
More than 60 percent of Mendocino County school children are eligible for free or reduced-cost meals. Mendocino County school districts currently offer students breakfast, lunch, snacks and some may provide dinner each school day. The grand jury found that all children eligible for free or reduced cost meals did not take a meal; some did not care for the menu offering on a particular day, and often eligible families did not complete the form to apply for free or reduced-cost meals.
The grand jury said they visited the three largest school district meal programs and two small school districts that offer free meals to all students. All districts the grand jury visited met the requirements of the current legislation. The grand jury found that more oversight and training could improve programs, and all meal program managers would benefit from sharing their most effective practices with each other.
June 6, 2018
Ukiah Daily Journal
By Ukiah Daily Journal Staff