OIG consolidated the relevant results and common control issues of six SFSP audits at FNS and four States and determined whether any additional controls were needed to enhance SFSP efficiency and effectiveness.
The National School Lunch Act authorizes the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) to provide free meals to children in needy areas when school is not in session. In fiscal year (FY) 2016, SFSP provided $472 million to serve more than 153 million meals and snacks to needy children at nearly 48,000 sites. Sponsors in California, Florida, New York, and Texas received more than $147 million of SFSP reimbursements in 2016, or about 35 percent of all program funding.
The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) is the Federal funding agency responsible for SFSP. FNS awards SFSP funding to State agencies and provides State agencies with guidance to properly administer and monitor the program. FNS is also responsible for program oversight. To carry out this function, FNS conducts management evaluations (ME) in accordance with FNS national and program-specific guidance that monitor the State agencies’ compliance with program requirements and ensure States use funds for intended purposes. The ME guidance includes an extensive questionnaire that contains more than 160 questions covering each of the program’s functional areas, including questions about State agencies’ application assessment and program monitoring procedures. State agencies provide responses to the ME review questions, and FNS ME reviewers evaluate the responses, interview State agency staff, and sample State application and monitoring files to assess the State agencies’ oversight of sponsor compliance.
State agencies are responsible for administering SFSP. Specifically, State agencies review and approve sponsor applications and reimburse sponsors for meals served to children at approved sites. State agencies also conduct sponsor administrative reviews to monitor sponsor and site compliance with program requirements. The administrative reviews include interviewing sponsor staff, reviewing sponsor records, writing reports, and reviewing and approving sponsor corrective actions. Additionally, State agencies must monitor sponsors’ SFSP unused reimbursements to ensure the funds are properly expended.
Locally, SFSP sponsors manage sites that provide the meals to children. Sponsors include public or private non-profit organizations such as school food authorities, faith-based organizations, or camps. Sponsors can manage multiple State-approved sites, including schools or community centers. Sponsors may prepare the meals themselves, either onsite or at a central kitchen, or purchase meals from a vendor, such as a food service management company. Sponsors are reimbursed for the number of eligible meals served multiplied by a predetermined per-meal rate set by a legislative formula. To be eligible, the meals must meet program requirements that include specific meal components.
Our objective was to consolidate relevant results and common control issues identified by OIG based on six SFSP audits at FNS and four States. We also determined whether any additional controls were needed to enhance SFSP efficiency and effectiveness.
WHAT OIG FOUND
The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), run by the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), provides free meals to children in needy areas when school is not in session. SFSP is a Federally funded, State agency-administered program, and FNS is responsible for State oversight. We consolidated the relevant results and common control issues identified by OIG based on six SFSP audits at FNS and four States.
We determined that additional controls were needed to enhance SFSP efficiency and effectiveness. First, we found that three of the four State agencies we reviewed needed to improve SFSP application processes to assess certain eligibility and program requirements prior to approving the sponsors’ applications. Specifically, we found FNS could strengthen State instructions on how to assess the applicants’ eligibility and program compliance in two areas: financial capability and approval of sites in near proximity. We also found that FNS’ State SFSP monitoring requirements did not include sufficient guidance for State agencies to ensure the accuracy of sponsor program payments. Further, sponsors and State agencies we reviewed did not consistently identify SFSP unused reimbursements or ensure the funds were used for authorized purposes. Lastly, we found that FNS’ management evaluation (ME) process for SFSP was not sufficient to ensure State agencies provided adequate oversight of the program.
FNS generally agreed with our recommendations and we accepted management decision for 12 of the 15 recommendations.