Sacramento- Senator Galgiani’s (D-Stockton) audit request of the California Department of Education (CDE) was approved by the Joint Legislative Audit Committee yesterday. Specifically the audit will determine whether school districts under the jurisdiction of CDE are in compliance with the Buy American requirement, a provision within the federal Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act of 1998.
According to the Buy American requirement, schools participating in the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program must purchase domestically grown and processed foods to the maximum extent possible. The food must be produced and processed in the United States with the final processed product consisting of over 51 percent domestic agricultural commodities. With limited exceptions to the requirement, and in compliance with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulations, school food authorities (SFAs) must ensure all food deliveries comply with the Buy American provision or have adequate documentation justifying any exception for non-domestic food purchases.
Recent actions by some public school districts in California warrant an audit of the CDE compliance with the Buy American requirement. In November 2015, the Sacramento Bee reported that Sacramento City Unified School District purchased Chinese canned peaches and mixed fruit even though nearly all U.S. canned peaches and plastic packaged peaches are grown here in California, and four food processor warehouses with supplies of canned peaches are within a two-hour drive of Sacramento. A similar situation occurred with the Elk Grove Unified School District.
“As Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, I was troubled to hear of these deviations from the Buy American requirement. Parents have a right to know where the food their children are eating at school is from and certifies the quality and safety of the food schools are serving. California serves as an agricultural hub of the world, and we should take advantage of the breadth of local resources we have at our disposal, and support our local economies,” said Senator Galgiani.
President and CEO of the California Canning Peach Association Rich Hudgins said, “An audit of California schools to determine their compliance with the Buy American requirement is warranted due to recent actions by some public school districts to purchase Chinese canned fruit that is also available domestically. The absence of transparency and understanding of the Buy American requirement regarding school food purchases for our children is concerning and serves to highlight the need for an audit to determine compliance and additional steps necessary to increase transparency regarding purchase decisions.”
Ag Council President Emily Rooney said, "We are proud that California is the leading agricultural-producing state in the nation with over 400 commodities grown and produced in our state. With a wide array of nutritious food grown and produced right here in California, it is incumbent upon the California Department of Education to review compliance and enforcement of the Buy American requirement. Enforcement of the requirement ensures our children consume food of the highest quality and safety, supports locally-grown products and our economy, and reinforces California’s commitment as a world leader on climate change."