How to Prepare for a Successful Administrative Review

planning mealsThe Administrative Review is a comprehensive evaluation of school meals programs in school food authorities (SFAs) participating in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. State Agencies are required to review each SFA every three years. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 established this new accountability system to ensure that participating districts comply with the school meals programs requirements.  

Areas of review:

  • Meal access and reimbursement
  • Meal pattern and nutritional quality
  • Resource management
  • General program compliance
  • Other federal program monitoring as applicable, such as the
    • Special Milk Program
    • Afterschool Snack Program
    • Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program

There are several documents that must be reviewed. Each SFA should be organized and prepared ahead of time. Some of the best practices for a successful review are listed below.

Be prepared! Organize the following documents:

  • Certification and benefit issuance: applications, direct certification lists, homeless lists, migrant/runaway lists, Head Start lists, Even Start lists, and notification letters
  • Verification: Verified applications and supporting documentation
  • Meal counting and claiming: edit checks for all schools for breakfast and lunch
  • On-site monitoring documentation (only applies to SFAs with two or more sites)
  • Meal patterns and nutritional quality: menus, standardized recipes, menu production records and product documentation (e.g. Child Nutrition (CN) labels, food labels, product formulation statements, manufacturer’s statements, and/or bid documentation)
  • Civil rights:  documentation of annual staff civil rights training, public release, civil rights complaints procedure, and procedures for accommodating students with special dietary needs
  • Local school wellness policy: current local school wellness policy, public notification of the policy, documentation of the review and update of the policy, and a copy of the most recent assessment on the implementation of the policy
  • Smart Snacks: documentation for all food and beverages sold a la carte during meal service and  a list of all food and beverage items, and accompanying product documentation sold by entities outside of the food service department 
  • Food safety: food safety/HACCP plan, two most recent food safety inspections (most recent inspection must be posted in a publicly visible location), written copy of health inspection request (if two inspections were not conducted in one school year) and temperature logs for all food storage and preparation areas

Review your program

When organizing the above information, review each section to ensure program requirements are being met. Pay particular attention to the following areas:

  • Meal patterns: review menus to ensure daily and weekly meal pattern requirements are met, recipes to ensure component contributions are calculated correctly, and product documentation to ensure it is acceptable, accurate and up-to-date
  • Certification and benefit issuance: review a sample of students to ensure eligibility statuses are correct and applications are complete

Procedures and requirements vary across states, so it is important to check with your State Agency to make sure you understand the Administrative Review process. SFAs should be meeting program requirements at all times; therefore, it is never too early to get organized and review your program to ensure compliance.


Amanda Mercer, MS, RD – Colorado Department of Education


Best Practices Sharing Center

Colorado Department of Education Administrative Review Resources  

North Carolina Department of Public Instruction Administrative Review Resources

Oregon Department of Education Administrative Review Resources

USDA Administrative Review Manual

Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction – Preparing for your Administrative Review