RD488 - Proposed Transfer of the Summer Food Service Program and the Child and Adult Care Food Program from the Virginia Department of Health and the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, and Special Milk Program from the Virginia Department of Education to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

Executive Summary:
Recognizing the opportunity to improve efficiency in the operations and oversight of Virginia’s Child and Adult Nutrition Programs, the Office of the Governor and the 2016 Virginia General Assembly enacted legislation to develop a plan to transfer Virginia’s responsibility for the federal nutrition programs of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS).

Currently in the Commonwealth, the USDA nutrition programs are housed in three separate agencies under three different Secretariats. Among the three agencies, the federal and state nutrition programs provide an estimated $500 million dollars in funding and USDA food that support Virginia’s nutrition programs for the children in local school divisions and childcare, low-income adults and families, and the chronically disabled. Combined, the three agencies administer 15 nutrition programs and employ approximately 50 staff working directly on the nutrition programs. In addition to the USDA food and reimbursement dollars, the USDA provides State Administrative Expense (SAE) funds for the administration of the USDA nutrition programs. During fiscal year (FY) 2016, Virginia received approximately $4.9 million in SAE dollars divided among the three agencies operating nutrition programs.

The plan outlines funding amounts and positions associated with the impacted programs including an estimate of whether such transfer of the nutrition programs would create cost savings or generate additional costs during the transitional period and over the long-term. Additionally, the plan provides an assessment of any potential administrative impacts on the local school divisions, the Virginia Department of Education, and the Virginia Department of Health. Finally, the plan affords decision makers with information covering the opportunities and challenges relative to the transfer of the nutrition programs to a single agency and the impact and the magnitude of the consolidation project.

Though the consolidation model at VDACS is the predominant theme as required by the legislation, the differences in available resources, technology, and existing personnel within the state may create other viable options for consolidation. Decision makers may wish to consider additional consolidation options that could offer alternative solutions and create a more efficient operation of the nutrition programs in the Commonwealth. The report contains additional options for consolidation which may be taken into consideration.

The challenges, estimated funding, and time required to transfer the nutrition programs to VDACS are significant; however, merits and opportunities demonstrate the Commonwealth’s visionary and progressive leadership while validating its determination to utilize resources in the most effective and efficient manner. Transferring all of the Commonwealth’s nutrition programs to a single agency (whether VDACS or another agency) presents a “high profile” endeavor. It is critical that the complexities and impacts of the project be recognized, dissected, and resolved before moving forward with transferring the nutrition programs to a single agency. Indications are that consolidation of the nutrition programs within a single agency would generate efficiencies, reduce duplicate reviews and services, afford opportunities for program evolution, and create savings in the future.