The USDA is investigating whether the Fresno Unified School District has been overpaying millions of dollars for fresh produce in recent years.
An audit of the district’s payments for produce for the federally funded Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program -conducted by accounting firm Price Paige & Company- found that Fresno Unified paid nearly $4.9 million over three years for fruits and vegetables that either cost more than the original bid prices or weren’t even on the bid list.
Jerry Stanley, chief deputy district attorney for the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office, said the office’s Public Integrity Unit is no longer investigating allegations that Fresno Unified overpaid for fresh fruits and vegetables; the lead investigative agency now is the USDA.
On Thursday, USDA spokesperson Larry Moore said that the agency had no immediate comment but was working on a response. Fresno Unified has not responded yet either.
The Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program is designed to provide fresh produce for students to encourage healthier eating habits. Fresno Unified is the largest participant in the program in California. It received a grant of $2.2 million to provide daily fruit and vegetable snacks to approximately 40,000 students at 59 elementary schools in the 2019-20 school year.