MDE administrative review makes sure food service programs meet guidelines

MANISTEE — The ultimate goal of every school food service program is to see that students are being fed healthy breakfast and lunches that meet state and federal mandated guidelines.

The Michigan Department of Education will be conducting an administrative review of the food service program at the Manistee Area Public Schools over the upcoming weeks. The review is down every three years to school food service programs to make sure they are meeting all the state and federal mandated requirements. (Ken Grabowski/News Advocate)

The Michigan Department of Education will be conducting an administrative review of the food service program at the Manistee Area Public Schools over the upcoming weeks. The review is down every three years to school food service programs to make sure they are meeting all the state and federal mandated requirements. (Ken Grabowski/News Advocate)

To ensure that all districts, like the Manistee Area Public Schools, are following  the required guidelines under the School and National Lunch and Breakfast Program the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) runs an administrative review every three years. MAPS is currently taking part in that lengthy process, and food service director Keri Carlson has completed several parts of it already.

“The administrative review process starts with a checklist of things  that they look at that I must upload to the MDE system,” said Carlson. “I also had to do a three-hour phone interview with the Michigan Department of Education on a five page questionnaire that I had to fill out first and we go over that together. They look to see that I met some of my generalized requirements.”

She said the questionnaire and phone call saves MDE the need of being in the district for five to 10 days to cover the same information.

Carlson said the process then shifts into their own buildings.

“After they review that information they will actually come here to our district for two days to go through our paperwork, production records, inventory information, our invoices, lunch applications, employee information, education for our employees,” said Carlson. “They also look at how we are meeting our requirements for nutrition, saturated fats and sodium for every single meal offered to our students. I have to upload the information on our menus to the MDE site.”

Carlson said it is a time consuming process and she actually has to list all the nutritional information of every single item on their menu.

“I also have to include a signed product formulation statement from every company that we use or what is called ‘the child nutrition label’ so they can see the breakdown on how it meets the protein, whole grain and other requirements,” she said.”Our food vendors have been very good about meeting those standards set down by the state as they are always changing.”

When they arrive in the district, the MDE not only meets with Carlson, but reviews what transpires in the different MAPS buildings.

“They also do on-site visits and can be in the kitchen to make sure we use standardized recipes, the correct products we say we are using,” said Carlson. “They also can watch how we serve and when we are running children through our registers they want to make sure the food requirements are being met on those trays.”

Carlson said because MAPS runs a breakfast in the classroom program at the Jefferson and Kennedy elementary buildings, the MDE has the right to go in any of those rooms in the morning to guarantee the correct components are being served to the students in order for MAPS to claim them as a free and reduced meal.

“This is the first time we have done a review with the breakfast in the classroom portion so that will be new,” said Carlson.

The review will be the first time Carlson has done it as food service director, but three years ago she sat in on some of the classes with former director Kathy Gutowski.

“It does take a lot of time to do this process, but it is good,” said Carlson. “They really want to work with you and it is more of a process of helping you to make right whatever might be wrong. At the very end they will sit down with me, the business manager and the superintendent and go over what they find.”

MAPS was also notified by the MDE that the district will also be undergoing resource management review at the same time.

“That review they are looking more at the fiscal responsibility of the program and how they are using their commodity funds and how they bid out the bread and milk orders to make sure they are fair and that you are not just using only the same company all the time,” said Carlson. “So it really is two reviews with one being for how we are doing nutritionally and the other one being fiscally.”

Carlson said there is the ability to correct any problems the MDE may find.

“You can either change it through your menu, how you are doing food or your papererwork,” said Carlson.”You have a time to fix it  and if it is financial you might get a reduction in reimbursement. It is important to know what you are doing and to be honest with them.”

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Posted by Ken Grabowski

Ken is News Advocate’s education reporter. He coordinates coverage for all Manistee County schools and West Shore Community College. He can be reached by phone at (231) 398-3125 or by email at kgrabowski@pioneergroup.com.

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