Meal Counting and Claiming by Food Service Management Companies in the School Meal Programs

Source: United States Government Accountability Office, GAO-09-156R, January 30, 2009

The federal government spends about $10 billion each year to provide meals to over 30
million students through the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs. However,
a 2007 study estimated that of this amount, $860 million (8.6 percent) in school year
2005-2006 was paid improperly because of errors in the number of meals counted and
claimed for reimbursement.1 These programs are administered by the United States
Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) through state
agencies that, in turn, oversee local school food authorities (SFA). SFAs that participate
in the lunch and breakfast programs receive federal cash reimbursements through the
state agency for each meal served, and in the lunch program they also receive USDA
commodity donations based on the number of meals served. In return, SFAs must serve
meals that meet federal nutrition requirements and offer meals free or at a reduced price
to students whose family’s income falls below certain thresholds.

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