ELK GROVE (CBS13) – The California State Auditor just released its July report and found six state school districts, including Elk Grove Unified and Stockton Unified, not compliant with federal requirements.
“It just makes it sound like we’re buying everything from outside of the United States when that’s really not the case!” said Michelle Drake, Food Services Director for Elk Grove Unified School District.
In its July report, the California State Auditor says Elk Grove Unified School District isn’t buying enough food made in the US. But the Drake says the findings are misleading.
“No one domestically grows pineapple or bananas so are we then not to serve that to our children because we can’t get it here?” she asked.
Schools in California receive nearly $2 billion federal dollars each year for school lunches. But to get that money, the districts must comply with the Buy American requirement. It requires school districts and other school food authorities “to purchase, to the maximum extent practicable, domestic commodities or domestic products.”
But after reviewing the audit, State Superintendent Tom Torlakson with the California Department of Education disagreed with the Auditor. He says “There is no legal definition for ‘extent practicable’” and “it’s unclear how a state agency should have monitored such a vague standard.”
We took a look at the 72 foods reviewed in the Elk Grove School District. Six were made outside of the U.S, while 17 were made inside of the U.S. But auditors say 49 items had an unclear source of origin.
“They want documentation on every product they bring into this building, not just the fresh fruits and vegetables,” Drake said.
But Drake says it’s nearly impossible to find out where every product is sourced – because companies are not required to put the country of origin on every food label in the US.
“How far am I supposed to drill down?” she asked. “Or am I then supposed to get rid of that product?”
Drake says now she is going back to distributors asking for proof of origin on all food sources. By Oct. 1, the Auditor recommends that the six districts in the report establish a policy on how to best keep track of their food sources.