The Impact of Federal Commodity Donations on the School Lunch Program

CED-77-32: Published: Jan 31, 1977. Publicly Released: Jan 31, 1977.

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The Department of Agriculture's (USDA) purchasing and distributing of commodities for the school lunch program was reviewed in five States (California, Kansas, Missouri, Ohio, and Pennsylvania) and 15 school districts to: assess the responsiveness of the Federal commodity program to the needs of school districts; evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of school districts receiving cash in lieu of Federal commodities under the school lunch program; and assess the reasons for plate waste (food served to the student but not eaten) in the school lunch program and identify possible solutions to the problem.

USDA surplus removal and price support programs go a long way toward meeting the needs of school districts. However, improvements are needed to make the school lunch program more effective and responsive to school district needs. The USDA Food and Nutrition Service has not taken adequate steps to make sure that the commodity preferences reported by the States are based on and reflect school district needs. Sometimes certain "traditional" items continue to be provided without being accepted by the States, and Department commodity purchase policies sometimes result in commodity purchases not highly preferred by the States. Districts, consequently, were being offered goods that did not match their needs or desires. Relative commodity costs are higher for smaller school districts than for the larger ones. If most districts, as they want, receive cash in lieu of Federal commodities, small district food costs might increase.

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