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School Nutrition Program Receives Above-Average Rating

posted May 16, 2016, 8:32 AM by Brenda Williams
Every three years in Minnesota, each school district’s foodservice department will receive an “Administrative Review” performed by the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE). The objective of this review is to determine whether the school’s foodservice program meets program requirements. MDE will also provide technical assistance and training, secure any needed corrective action and conduct claims adjustments, if applicable. The Pequot Lakes School District review was completed May 9th and 10th, and I am proud to say we received an above average rating!

In years past, these reviews were primarily conducted on site, which left less time for any technical assistance and additional training if needed. Now, a large portion of the review is completed before the ‘reviewer’ even gets to the school. The foodservice director is now required to download a number of documents into MDE’s review program weeks prior to the actual visit, so they can be evaluated. Approximately 100 questions are asked to help the reviewer understand our systems. Documents requested include a roster of all free and reduced households as well as a copies of informational correspondence sent to households. Training records, including Civil Rights training, are sent. The foodservice year-end revenue/expenditure report from June 30th of last year is requested. The school’s Wellness policy must be sent as well as documentation of the school board’s most recent approval of this policy.

A week of menus is provided to MDE. A label of every single food item served that week is required to be sent, as a complete nutritional breakdown for that week’s menu is required. The foodservice staff must keep a daily “Food Production Record” of all the food they served. The weeks’ worth of these Food Production Records are also sent. A conference call is then set up to discuss the documents sent, more documents may be requested or clarification questions asked to help the reviewer understand our specific procedures. The actual visit date is confirmed during this call.

During the on-site visit, the reviewer will watch breakfast and lunch service, making sure we are serving the proper portion sizes and that each child is taking enough on his/her tray before leaving the serving line. The reviewer will also look through 50% of all the Applications for Educational Benefits (Free and Reduced forms). They will actually re-figure each and every one of those 50% to make sure no mistakes were made, and that each family that should be getting free or reduced price meals does actually receive the benefit. They will look through the food production records to ensure that if we said we served 500 children, 500 servings of food were actually used. They will check that we are serving the same brand of food that we sent labels for, so the nutritional breakdowns match. They will review one month of claims sent to the State of MN requesting reimbursement. They will insure that if we requested reimbursement for 22,000 lunches, we actually served 22,000 lunches for the month!

They will also check current and past health inspections and food service licenses, and that each school has at least one employee with his/her food manager certification. They will check our procedures for preparing meals for children with allergies, as well as confirming each has a recent doctor’s note in their file stating this allergy. They will even check the vending machines to ensure all items sold during the school day meet the “Smart Snacks in Schools” guidelines. They will check the revenue/expenditure report to ensure we are using our funds properly and that our families foodservice account balances are being maintained within the proper guidelines.

This is just a small handful of the requirements of a Food Service Administrative Review. It was a very intensive, yet interesting project to go through, and we are extremely proud of the outcome!

-- Patty Buell, Food Service Director