School lunch problems

I forgot on Wednesday to link to this Chronicle article on how San Francisco’s school district had its payments suspended for not following the rules about how school lunches have to be run. It sounds pretty bad, when a state official says:

“When we withhold funds, it’s because our findings are pretty egregious,” said Phyllis Bramson-Paul, director of the California Department of Education Nutrition Services Division. “We’re not taking away money; we’re just not going to give it until there’s integrity in their meal claims.”

But the egregious findings were things like this:

Federal requirement: Schools must accurately identify and count every child as he or she receives a free, reduced-rate or paid lunch. Each child must hold a lunch card while going through the line or be individually identified on a checkoff sheet or computer system.

Violation: At several schools, inspectors found cases in which staff members or teachers violated policy by holding the cards for the children or failing to bring the cards to the cafeteria to give to the children. On touch screens, teachers, instead of students, were seen pushing buttons.

Federal requirement: Children must select their own food, including a minimum of three servings each. Staff must verify the correct quantity. School staff cannot hand children – even the youngest ones – a tray of food.

Violation: At four schools, students left the line with too few items or were otherwise not monitored as having taken a complete lunch, resulting in 37 invalid lunch reimbursement claims.

Federal requirement: Milk must be served.

Violation: At one high school, servers ran out of milk with 30 students still to serve. At a middle school, milk wasn’t delivered on an inspection day. None of those 247 meals should have been counted for reimbursement.

Recall that the district gets less than $3.00 a meal, and marvel at the bureaucratic nonsense that keeps them from receiving even that.

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Working to build a local, sustainable food system in San José