In Spite of Obstacles, Charter Schools Provide Food Services to Students

October 22, 2010

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The Bureau of State Audits (BSA) released a report this week on child nutrition programs at charter schools, and the level of participation in the federal meal programs, due to a request by the Joint Legislative Audit Committee earlier this year.

The California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) was interviewed for the report this summer, and several charter schools were either visited by BSA representatives or surveyed for the report.

CCSA is encouraged by the results of the audit, as it shows that most charter schools participate in the federal School Breakfast Program and the National School Lunch Program, despite not being required to do so. Those that don't participate use alternative options, including contracting with vendors/caterers, or offering nutrition information to parents for homemade meals. Charter schools are clearly committed to providing quality education services to low-income students.

CCSA encourages charter schools providing food services on-campus should observe all applicable federal, state, and local health and safety code provisions regarding food services. The barriers to operate compliant and safe food service programs are many, and inherently affect participation, as expressed by the report and our own informal inquiries.

Specifically, many charter schools are unable to participate in the programs due to the following:

  1. Lack of access to adequate facilities to operate a safe and compliant program

    a) This may particularly affect charter schools that do not receive compliant Prop. 39 facilities offers from their districts.

  2. Lack of financial resources to build or purchase necessary equipment and facilities to operate a compliant program

  3. Lack of access to partner with school districts on their existing and operating programs

  4. Lack of "scale" for smaller charter schools to independently manage the administrative complexity of the federal lunch program

The Association is working diligently to provide support and assistance to charter schools on this issue, and finding solutions to eliminate these barriers.

CCSA members, click here to view additional information on charter schools and child nutrition programs.

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