Child Care Food Program:

Better Management Will Yield Better Nutrition and Fiscal Integrity

CED-80-91: Published: Jun 6, 1980. Publicly Released: Jun 6, 1980.

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The Child Care Food Program was established to improve the nutritional levels of the diet of the Nation's children, primarily preschool children. Food and nutritional regional offices administer the program when State education agencies or other State agencies are unwilling or unable to do so. Public or private nonprofit organizations manage the program locally. Meals are provided by day care centers or in family or group day care homes. The program has grown significantly since its inception in 1969, and participation is expected to increase. GAO visited 98 sponsors and 715 feeding sites in four States during its study of the program's management.

GAO felt improved management of the program is essential if substandard meals, unhealthy feeding site conditions, and questionable financial accountability are to be improved. During the GAO study, delivery of services and financial accountability were found unacceptable. The impact of recent legislation providing for the expansion of the program needs assessment. The management of State and regional program offices needs improvement as a lack of personnel hampers the program administration. Regional oversight must also be improved.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Department of Agriculture (USDA) should direct the Administrator, Food and Nutrition Service, to eliminate the conditions which prevent program participants from receiving nutritious meals in healthy environs. Specifically, the Secretary should require the Administrator to establish an effective system to monitor feeding site conditions and compliance with USDA meal standards. Also, the Secretary should direct the Administrator to determine that the Service's new fiscal guidelines are completed in accordance with sound accounting and auditing principles and other appropriate Federal guidelines, including applicable GAO standards, and that program personnel are trained in their use; develop a system for monitoring the activities of the Service's regional offices and State agencies; and develop effective headquarters information systems to enhance program planning, policy development, and guidance. To provide Congress with some assurance that program expansion is carried out effectively and efficiently, the Secretary should be certain that current and future resources at all levels necessary to assure the nutritional and financial integrity of the Child Care Food Program are identified, an action plan for achieving mandated program expansion is developed, and the results of these efforts are communicated to the appropriate congressional committees. Further, to encourage States to retain responsibility for program management, the Secretary should identify for Congress measures which would support State program management and encourage States that had relinquished program control to resume responsibility. In addition, the Secretary should closely oversee State activities to identify obstacles to sound program management and to provide assistance in overcoming them.

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