Administrative Review Challenges

The Administrative Review (AR) process significantly impacts both State Agencies (SA) and School Food Authorities (SFA). These processes experience the greatest challenges:

The migration from a five-year cycle to three-year cycle results in a 70% increase in workload at the SA level. This increase reflects the effects of time reduction to complete all phases, a larger number of sites included in the reviews, and the increase in tracking required to ensure deadlines are met.
The AR process includes many forms which require time and effort for SAs to complete. Some of the forms are cumbersome and/or confusing, while others require calculation—all of which may lead to costly errors.
The AR process requires a significant change from the Coordinated Review Effort (CRE). The AR process mandates a collection of the Benefit Issuance Document and application review for all schools rather than only the sites selected for the CRE.
The menu verification process, formerly known as School Meals Initiative (SMI), was previously completed independently of the CRE. Verification of menus and menu items to qualify for 6¢ certification is conducted during the AR process. Additionally, all serving lines at sites selected for review must be observed, which increases SA on-site time and staff requirements.
The addition of on-site observation and review of production records for breakfast to the review process promises an increase in workload and resource requirements. The complexity of the grains/meat flexibility in the breakfast meal pattern adds another layer of difficulty to both training and assessing compliance.
The scope of the AR is enlarged by the inclusion of other programs:
• Seamless Summer Option
• Fresh Fruit and Vegetable
• Afterschool Snack
• Special Milk

PrimeroEdge Solutions

On-site reviews are focused on covering the basics, such as manually pulling and reviewing physical documents. Documentation is often misfiled or lost, wasting valuable reviewer time while on-site. Aside from documentation review, little time is left to deliver the technical assistance and training that SFAs desire and need to ensure that the school’s nutritional environment is enhanced.

PrimeroEdge accomplishes a significant amount of the review which is conducted remotely at the convenience of a reviewer’s desk. The extra time spent on-site can now be targeted to drill down in specific areas to determine if potential findings exist. Also, more time on-site can be allocated to provide training and technical assistance, transferring knowledge from the State agency to SFA child nutrition staff – enhancing the district’s child nutrition program results.

Through remote review, PrimeroEdge provides the opportunity for time previously spent in transit “on the road” to be better spent accomplishing review activities, reviewing online documentation, and finalizing the Administrative Review Report. Also, specific areas can be further investigated and more detailed technical assistance provided when the reviewer can make more valuable use of their on-site time.

State agencies are required to conduct weighted nutrient analysis on one week’s menus. Since SFA menus are available to TDA from within PrimeroEdge, the process of conducting nutrient analysis becomes easier and quicker. The need for TDA to manually input the information is dramatically reduced with PrimeroEdge.
Currently, most SFAs complete their production records on paper. Paper production records are usually poorly organized and hard to read. PrimeroEdge electronic production records are well-organized and easily-accessible to TDA for review purposes.

With SMI functions being part of the new Administrative Review and the added burden of reviewing breakfast menus, reviewers need a way to reduce their workload. PrimeroEdge allows SFAs to scan or attach nutrition fact labels while creating their ingredients. This feature allows reviewers to verify the nutrient information on the ingredient and nutrition label side-by-side, eliminating the need for the reviewer to re-enter information already entered by the SFA.

Moreover, if the same ingredients and recipes are being shared by many SFAs, the reviewers can save even more time by marking ingredients as “Verified” and once recipes have been analyzed, mark them “Verified” as well. Therefore, “Verified” ingredients and recipes do not have to be reviewed again unless they have been modified. When SFAs use only “Verified” ingredients and recipes, the reviewer simply reviews menus, conducts weighted nutrient analysis and reviews production records.

On-site reviews may be hampered when a reviewer visits a SFA and learns that key staff are out sick or had a family emergency and are unavailable to provide required documents. Lack of audit readiness and inability to locate documentation can extend visits, further straining limited State Agency resources. Inflation continues to drive up costs for hotels, rental cars, meals, etc. – magnifying the problem even further.

By reviewing essential documents at the TDA office directly from PrimeroEdge, time and associated expense of extended on-site visits is minimized. Time spent on-site is now focused on assisting the SFA with program improvement rather than drowning in unprepared, unorganized data.

Currently, a typical analysis of a week’s lunch menu takes between one to one-and-a-half days, depending on the number of serving lines and items offered at the school. SFAs also experience considerable lag when gathering information needed for review such as labels, recipes, menus, etc. after the reviewer arrives on-site.

PrimeroEdge creates dramatic efficiencies by providing effectively-organized, electronic information to the reviewer. The review of a week’s lunch menu is easily conducted within a few minutes. Since labels, recipes, menus, etc. are all readily available electronically, the time to search and gather this information in physical form on-site is eliminated.


  • Alaska Department of Education
  • North Dakota Department of Public Instruction
  • New Jersey Department of Agriculture
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