Welcome back! I am glad you decided to join us again to discuss accountability in your school nutrition operation. In case you missed it, last week we discussed the importance of staying accountable in nutrition. Check out that post here.
As a quick recap, we discussed how the role of School Nutrition Director is critical. This position keeps the program accountable. We also talked about the four areas of accountability: nutrition, financial, program access, and school wellness. As you have probably already guessed, today we will be discussing the importance of remaining accountable in your finances.

Area of Accountability #2 – Finance

We all know that school nutrition programs are funded on federal money. This makes it even more crucial to remain accountable and ensure money is spent properly. It is important to remain accountable for the effective and efficient use of financial resources so that you can achieve the purpose and goals of the school nutrition program.
As mentioned in last week’s post, government and district administrators are important stakeholders in the fiscal responsibility of public funds entrusted to them. They are important to keep in mind throughout the entire financial process because of their huge role. The financial accounting process has been made easier with the setting and publication of regulations, policies, procedures, and guidelines to help directors show accountability through documentation and reporting. If you are accountable all year round you will have no problems when the state agency performs an onsite review.

Allowable Costs

Total nutrition program cost includes both direct and indirect costs Whether the costs are direct or indirect they must all be allowable. If the costs are not allowable they cannot be charged to a nonprofit food service account. To determine whether costs are allowable certain criteria must be met, such as the costs must be necessary, reasonable and allocable. To find more detailed examples of allowable and unallowable costs, visit this site.
To determine whether you can use funds from the nonprofit food service account for a certain cost you must follow a multi-step process. Begin by examining each cost and reviewing the criteria in 2 CFR Pat 225 to help with this process. Next, review program regulations in conjunction with historical FNS policy. Finally, apply all these collective principles to the circumstances regarding each cost. Following this multi-step process is sure to keep you accountable for your finances.
Another way to stay accountable for your finances is utilizing the Food Buying Guide for Child Nutrition Programs. This guide contains all current information in one manual that can help you purchase the right amount and type of food. The guide also determines the specific contribution each food makes toward the meal requirements.

Direct Costs

As I mentioned earlier, direct costs added with indirect costs comprise the total cost for your school nutrition program. A direct cost occurs when only the school nutrition department has incurred the cost. Some examples of direct costs include food, staff wages, and supplies used for the program.

Indirect Costs

Indirect costs on the other hand, are incurred for the benefit of many programs, functions, or other cost objectives. These costs include fringe benefits, accounting, payroll, and much more. A mathematical formula allocates indirect costs so that each department receives their fair share. You must treat indirect costs consistently throughout your district. This is something you must keep in mind to ensure you are accountable.
Being in control of your finances is crucial to the success of your school nutrition program. You must consider your direct and indirect costs as well as all the costs incurred by your organization.
Check back next week for our last accountability installment. In the meantime, share with us what you have done in the past to keep your program accountable for its finances.