School districts in California are spending millions of dollars on fresh produce and other higher quality ingredients, new equipment, upgraded facilities and additional programs and personnel such as chefs and dietitians, all prompted by a mandate from the state's Dept. of Education to ensure that excess foodservice funds are used properly, reports EdSource.
The program is a modification of an original policy prompted by a financial oversight report that alleged that a number of districts in the state improperly diverted school foodservice funds to other departments and uses, or they maintained excessive nutrition department reserves.
Initially, the state DOE forced the affected districts to repay the misallocated monies, with Los Angeles USD alone having to reimburse some $158 million, but this had an adverse impact on school meal programs. So the state reversed course about a year ago and now works with the affected districts to develop spending plans that use the excess funds in the way they were intended.
To date, 68 districts have been affected, primarily Santa Ana USD, which had an excess $13 million to spend, and Stockton USD, with $9 million.