On Friday, September 21, 2012, Howard Leikert discussed USDA Foods in his Weekly News e-mail. His update was as follows:
USDA Foods – We encourage schools to continue to use their USDA Foods as intended when originally ordered. We are aware of the potential conflict between using these foods while still maintaining the new meal pattern requirements. While it is critically important to make every effort to comply with the new meal pattern, MDE will maintain flexibility in the Validation Reviews that will be conducted this school year as it relates to the use of USDA Foods.
Here is some background information on this comment. During a recent call with USDA-MWRO held on September 13, 2012, Howard Leikert asked the following questions pertaining to existing USDA Foods inventory and how it related to 6 cent certification/new meal regulations. Below are the questions he asked:
- SFAs are stuck between being in FULL compliance with the new meal pattern and fully utilizing available USDA Foods (6 cents for being in compliance with certification and likely more than 6 cents when using USDA Foods).
- Do SAs have any flexibility in working with SFAs for this year of transition in order to allow moderate use of these foods while not jeopardizing the 6 cent reimbursement (It is especially important that SFAs have an opportunity to utilize the full value of USDA foods per policy memorandum SP 39-2012)?
The response he received was that “we need to be flexible” and schools “need be reasonable”. Essentially, the USDA said it was permissible to use existing balances as long as it did not veer too far off of the new meal regulations. USDA also pointed out that this is a transition year and that there would be no Coordinated Review Efforts (CREs) in School Year 2012-2013. If a school is using an item that does not meet the regulations, MDE staff may ask for proof (such as an invoice) to prove that the item was purchased through the USDA Foods program.
Please continue to voice your concerns about the meal pattern regulations and how they pertain to USDA Foods. If you have any questions or comments, please contact Jaime Malnar at firstname.lastname@example.org or 517-335-3792.
Cheryl Schubel, Supervisor
Food Distribution Programs
Office of School Support Services
Michigan Department of Education