Tuesday, June 18, 2024 Jun 18, 2024
80° F Dallas, TX



A hefty assignment was recently dumped into the lap of Rebecca Reed, human ser-vices planner for Dallas’ De-partment of Health and Hu-man Resources: Organize a summer lunch program for more than 11,000 Dallas chil-dren within 15 working days.The summer lunch pro-gram is an extension of the school lunch program. In previous years, the program, funded by the U.S. Depart-ment of Agriculture, was the responsibility of the Dallas County Community Action Committee, Inc. (DCCAC). This spring the federal gov-ernment ruled that only edu-cational facilities, day camps and governmental units could direct the program. The buck was passed to Reed.Luckily, Reed had worked on the program with the DCCAC, so she was familiar with its problems. Days after the new program’s inception, volunteers, sites and a vend-ing company were found.The program’s funding is a tricky matter. The city pays the vendor, then bills the fed-eral government each month. The federal government, however, will only pay for thelunches that are consumed. Each child receives one serving, and 10 percent of the total number of lunches can be served as seconds. The other leftovers, though consumed, go on the city’s tab. This stipulation was enough to scare off many Texas cities. There were 75 summer lunch programs in the state last year and only 30 this year. Reed cites “financial liability” as the cause for the decrease.

In the Dallas program, lunches must be ordered one day in advance for the vending company to prepare them. The number ordered is derived from the number of children who showed up the previous day.

Reed says she was worried at first, but kept close tabs on each of the 62 sites, having each supervisor complete a daily meal service report, which gave them a log to go by when ordering. After two months, Reed reported that the city didn’t have to pay for any of the 382,000 lunches served in Dallas.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Texas Department of Human Resources have kept tabs on the program. Last year, Reed says, the program was audited every week, with fault often found and meals not paid for. This year, the program has only been audited a few times and received no complaints.