Improper Payments Down for School Meal Programs

May 5, 2015 | By Jerry Ashworth | Post a Comment

lunch-time-1080084-mThis is a step in the right direction. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) recently announced that improper payments in the nation’s school meals programs are down.

To better ensure proper stewardship of the school meal programs, FNS developed a study series titled “Access, Participation, Eligibility and Certification (APEC)” to collect nationally-representative data from schools and school food authorities every five years. The study estimates improper payment rates and amounts in three key areas: aggregation, certification and meal claiming errors.

Aggregation errors occur when a school undercounts or over counts the number of meals that are eligible for reimbursement. Certification errors occur when a child is placed into the wrong meal reimbursement category, such as when a child who is eligible for reduced priced meals is certified for free meals, or when a child who is eligible for free meals is denied. Meal claiming errors occur when a meal is categorized incorrectly as reimbursable or non-reimbursable at the point-of-sale in the cafeteria.  These errors typically involve a required item, such as a milk or fruit being left off of a tray by the student.

The study found that while the overall level of program error, according to FNS, “remains unacceptably high,” the overall error rate has declined from 3.8 percent to 0.8 percent in the National School Lunch Program and from 6.0 percent to 1.2 percent in the School Breakfast Program.

In addition, FNS will provide $8.5 million in grants to improve schools’ operational and oversight efforts in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. “Reducing errors in our school meal programs is a top priority for USDA,” said Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Under Secretary Kevin Concannon. “The data show that we are moving in the right direction, and the efforts announced today will help schools continue to reduce errors in the school meal programs. By focusing on program efficiencies, we protect taxpayer dollars and ensure the school meal programs remain available to the millions of children who rely on them.”

Reducing improper payments is a key goal of the Office of Management and Budget’s uniform grant guidance. Hopefully, this is a trend that will continue with other federal agencies.

What do you think about FNS’s efforts to reduce improper payments? Let us know.



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