Report: State agency ill-equipped to spot school district foodservice fraud

In recent years, the California Department of Education ordered eight districts to repay about $170 million to student meal programs, report says.

COLTON, Calif.—Recent mismanagement issues with the nutrition services departments of two San Bernardino County school districts, Colton Joint Unified and Rialto Unified, are among a series of similar problems in California made worse by “overmatched” state investigators facing what could be a flood of such cases, according to a report prepared last year for the state Senate.

Released in February 2013, “Food fight: small team of state examiners no match for schools that divert student meal funds,” prepared by the California Senate Office of Oversight and Outcomes, depicts a financially strapped oversight system with less than one California Department of Education inspector for every 50 public school districts.

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
vote buttons pins

On every other Thursday of our four-week cycle menu, we allow K-8 students to pick the entree choices. The media center specialist for each of the participating schools sets up the list of entree items on a computer for voting, and the winning entrees are given to cafeteria managers two weeks before the upcoming month to put into production. Students really like this, as it promotes ownership of the menu.

Ideas and Innovation
chalkboard

We highlight our North Carolina products on a large chalkboard in our dining halls, and also list any produce we bring in from our own agroecology farm. It helps tell our story—positive and local.

Ideas and Innovation
raised garden beds

We have raised garden beds that residents can reserve and use to grow their own plants. Whenever a resident brings me fresh produce from their own garden, I try and incorporate it into a dish. If I do end up using it, I will display the resident’s name and what the produce was next to the dish on the menu.

Ideas and Innovation
chartwells teaching kids

Curriculum for the mobile teaching kitchen centers around a single kid-friendly recipe, using ingredients that can provide talking points for nutrition, sustainability and food origins. “The recipe is the lesson,” Saidel says. “Every ingredient is an opportunity to talk.”

Earlier this year, Saidel, Perkins and Harvey did a student demo featuring roasted chicken and white bean tacos with greens and citrus salsa. “We can say, ‘Why are we using chicken instead of beef? Why are there some beans in here?’ You can talk about plant proteins and the sustainability and health message around...

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