Are School Lunch Programs Being Cheated By Corporate Food Giants?

school lunch photo

Image: Scott Ableman via flickr

The USDA has said it plans for officials to start auditing the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs in August to investigate claims that food-service companies including Sodexo, Aramark, and the Compass Group are (illegally) not passing rebate savings on to school districts. School food service programs are required by the USDA to run on a non-profit basis, and when a provider receives some kind of discount, it is required to "be transparent in their identification of these rebates, discounts, and credits."

Such contractors have a history of not passing savings onto schools, with the most notable case likely being in New York in 2010, when Sodexo was found to be illegally overcharging public schools by not sharing savings from rebates with them, and agreed to a $20 million settlement.

The Ohio Farmer reports that less than six months later, the USDA told Sodexo that it owed Columbus, Ohio schools almost $400,000 "because the company had charged the district for some government food commodities that Sodexo had received for free."

The Hill explains the background to the current case:

In September 2010, [Conn. Rep. Rosa] DeLauro wrote to Vilsack asking that USDA look into problems with the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs. As reason for the probe, she cited a $20 million settlement reached between Sodexo and New York state in July after the company was found not to have passed on rebates to several school districts.

The Hill quotes a USDA spokesman, "The National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs are the foundation of the national hunger safety net for children across the country."

More on school lunch:
USDA Proposes New School Lunch Requirements
The 5 Weirdest Policies That Make School Lunches Unhealthy
5 Ideas That Would Revolutionize School Food (and Save our Kids)
Five Cool Programs Making School Lunch Better

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