Food Assistance:

Early Results of USDA's No-Fee School Meal Pilot Program

T-RCED-94-184: Published: Apr 14, 1994. Publicly Released: Apr 14, 1994.

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GAO discussed the Department of Agriculture's (USDA) No-Fee School Meal Pilot Program, focusing on: (1) the differences between the no-fee pilot program and the traditional school meal programs; (2) the different approaches used by four school food authorities (SFA) participating in the pilot program; and (3) SFA administrative costs and workload, student participation, and federal costs. GAO noted that: (1) the two major differences between the no-fee pilot program and traditional school meal programs involves how each SFA determines the number of children eligible for free meals and the amount of reimbursement due the federal government for meals served; (2) SFA participating in the pilot program have reduced their administrative costs and the number of meals served at the pilot schools has increased by 10 percent; (3) federal costs to subsidize the pilot program increased by 33 percent during the initial 2 years of the program; (4) the increase in federal reimbursements was due, in part, to the increased number of students participating in the school lunch program; (5) SFA participating in the pilot program use less time-consuming and less paperwork-intensive approaches for determining students' eligibility for free or reduced-priced meals which enables them to free up staff resources to perform other activities; and (6) expansion of the no-fee pilot program would enable Congress and USDA to assess the social and budgetary merits associated with nationwide implementation of the program.

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