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D.C. Schools Meal Program Under Fire Over Deficit

The Washington, D.C., Public Schools has come under fire for a meal program deficit of more than $10 million annually.

The school meals program for the Washington, DC, Public Schools has come under fire from the district council for a program deficit of more than $10 million a year, reports the Washington Post. The deficit was revealed in an independent audit commissioned by the school system, which analyzed the period between 2008 and 2012. Council members accused district foodservice provider Chartwells-Thompson Hospitality of overcharging for its services, but the company says the disparity came primarily from rising costs caused by the implementation of an especially stringent school-board-mandated healthy meals policy in 2010.

For its part, Chartwells-Thompson describes the school district's audit process as "flawed" and prepared by "unqualified auditors with no previous experience in foodservice." Chartwells-Thompson also claims that over the original contract's four years, it helped the district significantly reduce its losses while improving food quality. (For the full Chartwells-Thompson response, go here.)

The district did cancel its contract with Chartwells-Thompson following the 2011-12 school year and issued a new RFP, but Chartwells-Thompson won that bid with modified contract terms that substituted a fixed-price-meal reimbursement structure for the previous cost reimbursement model. Nevertheless, the district says it continues to lose money, a projected $9 million for this school year based on first fiscal quarter numbers, according to the Washington Examiner. Last year's deficit was $12 million.

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