Lunch branch faces federal sanctions
The state violated the program's procedures in accounting for meals
An internal review of the state School Food Services Branch has uncovered numerous violations in accounting for meals distributed to students under the National School Lunch Program, officials said.
Such violations are not new, and already have resulted in some federal funds being withheld, according to an e-mail to all School Food Services personnel. A copy of the e-mail was obtained by the Star-Bulletin.
Deputy Schools Superintendent Clayton Fujie confirmed that the branch was reviewed and did not meet federal standards.
"We have to work with them -- in terms of technical assistance and also in terms of servicing staff -- on the procedures," Fujie said.
Fujie declined comment on potential or existing sanctions. An exact figure for the amount of federal money that has been withheld was not immediately available. The sanctions were imposed in July, according to the e-mail.
In 2003-04 the state received about $28.8 million in National School Lunch Program funds, according to the Food Research and Action Center, a policy analysis group. About 125,000 students participated in the program.
The most recent review was conducted in October by the Office of Hawaii Child Nutrition Programs, which conducts annual reviews of food service programs that receive federal reimbursement.
Among the problems uncovered by the review: There was no system in place to accurately account for students' meals, second meals were inaccurately accounted for, more free or reduced meals were claimed than students were eligible for, and some cashiers did not know which meals qualified under the program.
Other violations included menus not meeting minimum meal pattern requirements and insufficient planning that led to schools running out of food.
Food service personnel were ordered to be more vigilant in their oversight and were given checklists to follow to make sure their accounting methods comply with the federal guidelines.
"We'll work with the School Food Services Branch and give them the technical advice of what they need to do in each school to meet the federal guidelines," Fujie said.