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School food authorities should have a continuing training program for local staff on all program and regulatory areas. Training should provide for consistent, standardized program interpretation and implementation as well as help to ensure that commodities are handled and utilized properly. The Food Distribution Division field staff is available to conduct training upon request.
The state distribution agency will review all program areas such as eligibility, record keeping, storage procedures and practices, allocations and utilization of donated foods and food processing. Civil rights compliance and complaint procedures will be included in the review process. Representatives of USDA may also review and/or audit your program.
In order for school food authorities to ensure that the food distribution program is being administered within regulatory guidelines, an ongoing monitoring system should be implemented.
XIV. CIVIL RIGHTS COMPLAINTS
All written or verbal complaints alleging discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, sex, or handicap shall be processed within 90 days upon receipt in the manner prescribed by this Instruction.
A. Procedure for Filing Complaints of Discrimination
1. Right To File a Complaint: Any person alleging discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, sex, or handicap has a right to file a complaint within 180 days of the alleged discriminatory action. Under special circumstances, this time limit may be extended by the OMA (Office of Minority Affairs).
2. Acceptance: Distributing agencies and recipient agencies shall accept all complaints, written or verbal, and shall forward such complaints to Food Distribution Division with a copy to the FNSRO (Food Nutrition Service Regional Office). It is necessary that the information be sufficient to determine the identity of the agency or individual toward which the complaint is directed, and to indicate the substance and details of a violation. Only the Director, OMA, can reject a complaint on the basis of lack of merit. Anonymous complaints shall be handled just as any other complaint.
3. Verbal Complaints: In the event a complainant makes the allegation verbally or through a telephone conversation and refuses or is not inclined to place such allegation in writing, the person to whom the allegation is made shall write up the elements of the complaint for the complainant.
Every effort should be made to have the complainant provide the following information:
a. Name, address, and telephone number or other means of contacting the complainant.
b. The specific location and name of the entity delivering the service or benefit.
c. The nature of the incident or action that led the complainant to feel discrimination was a factor.
d. The basis on which the complainant feels discrimination exists (race, color, national origin, age, sex, or handicap).
e. The names, titles, and business addresses of persons who may have knowledge of the discriminatory action.
f. The date(s) during which the alleged discriminatory action occurred, or if continuing, the duration of such action.
B. Preliminary Inquiry or Investigation:
1. Preliminary Inquiry: Inquiries requested by OMA shall be performed by the FNSRO within thirty (30) days of the OMA request. Upon completion, a written report shall be forwarded to the CR Division for transmittal to OMA. This report shall state the finding of the inquiry with relation to the specific allegation(s) of the complaint
and shall include a summary of all interviews and file examinations. If no findings of discrimination were substantiated, Food Distribution Division will prepare a letter to the Director, OMA, through CR Division recommending closure and a closing letter to the complainant to be signed by the Director, OMA.
2. Investigation: Investigations of complaints of discrimination based on race, color, national origin, age, sex, or handicap will be conducted by the OMA. The OMA will forward a copy of the investigation report to the Director, CR Division, who will review and analyze the investigation report to determine whether the report provides evidence of discrimination or civil rights non-compliance as alleged by the complainant. Within ten (10) days of the receipt of the report, CR Division will, with the concurrence of the Director, FD Division, submit the analysis and recommended action(s) to OMA for approval. The Director, OMA, will either recommend that no corrective action be taken pursuant to the allegations or approve corrective action.
3. Closing Letter to Complainant: If it is determined by the Director, FD Division, after a Preliminary inquiry or the Director, CR Division, after an investigation, that the complainant's allegations are not substantiated, a proposed closing letter to the complainant will be provided by FD or CR Division for the signature of the Director, OMA. The proposed letter shall contain the following:
a. A brief description of the allegation(s).
b. The scope of the inquiry or investigation conducted.
c. Facts and information from the inquiry or investigation report refuting each allegation.
d. Closing statement summarizing the basis on which the determination was made.
4. Closure of Complaint File: The OMA is responsible for closure of all Title VI complaint files. Once copies of enclosure letters are received by the FD Division, they shall be forwarded to the appropriate FNSRO.
XV. STATE FOOD DISTRIBUTION ADVISORY COUNCIL/COMMODITY ACCEPTABILITY SURVEY
Council members must represent a variety of schools and administrative levels and are appointed for three-year staggered terms. The Food Distribution Program director is a member of the committee, but is a non-voting member.
Activities of the council are vital links in the State Information network. Recommendations by the council have often resulted in documented program improvements. It is important for school food authorities to maintain a close working relationship with the council in order to transfer information and suggestions.