To determine the extent of implementation of the two recommendations included in our initial audit report, Oversight of the Farm-to-School Program (Report 2020-S-9).
About the Program
New York's Farm-to-School Program (Program) was established to increase school districts' and individual schools' purchase of local specialty crops by developing existing strengths while building additional relationships between schools. The Program is intended to connect schools with local farms and food producers, strengthen local agriculture, improve student health, and promote regional food system awareness. By providing financial assistance to develop programs, schools should be better positioned to purchase food from State farms.
The Department of Agriculture and Markets (Department), through its Business Development Unit, provides financial assistance to promote the purchase of State farm products by schools, universities, and other educational institutions. The Department competitively awards grant funding to schools for projects based on several factors including reasonableness of cost, project benefits, and plans of work. Each project is divided into objectives and tasks, each of which must be accompanied by one or more performance measures. The Department uses the performance measures to determine the success of each project. For example, recipients may use funds to hire farm-to-school coordinators whose responsibilities may include connecting local farms to their school. In such cases, the performance measure would be whether a coordinator was hired and their responsibilities were clearly established.
Each grant recipient enters into a contract with the Department for eligible projects, which align to the goals of the Program. The contract defines the terms, conditions, and recipient responsibilities. Recipients submit reimbursement requests for expenses and narrative reports on a quarterly basis. These reports summarize the services rendered during the quarter and should detail how the recipient has progressed toward attaining the goals listed in the contract's work plan. All goals and objectives of the project, discussion of problems encountered, and steps taken to resolve them should also be addressed in these reports. From January 2015 to July 2022, the Department granted 90 Program awards totaling $7.77 million to 57 different entities. During this period, the Department reimbursed recipients over $2.8 million for Program expenses.
Our initial audit report, issued April 19, 2021 and covering the period January 1, 2016 through October 20, 2020, found the Department needs to improve monitoring of both Program expenditures and recipient performance to ensure recipients use funds as intended and achieve Program goals. We generally attributed these findings to a breakdown in monitoring functions as well as a lack of policies and procedures to guide staff on Program monitoring.
Department officials made significant progress in addressing the problems we identified in the initial audit report. Both recommendations were implemented.
State Government Accountability Contact Information:
Audit Director: Nadine Morrell
Phone: (518) 474-3271; Email: [email protected]
Address: Office of the State Comptroller; Division of State Government Accountability; 110 State Street, 11th Floor; Albany, NY 12236