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House Committee Examines Fraud in Nutrition Programs

On May 19, the House Education and the Workforce Committee held a hearing, “Addressing Waste, Fraud, and Abuse in Federal Child Nutrition Programs.”

Kay E. Brown, director, Education, Workforce, and Income Security, Government Accountability Office (GAO), described the fraud uncovered in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC): “GAO monitored one online classified advertisements website in four large metropolitan areas for 30 days and found two posts in which individuals attempted to sell formula specifically identified as WIC – from among 2,726 that advertised infant formula generally. A larger number, 481 posts, advertised formula generally consistent with the formula brand, type, container volume, and amount provided to WIC participants, but these posts did not indicate the source of the formula.” Ms. Brown added, “GAO found that USDA [Department of Agriculture] had not specifically directed states to tell participants that selling WIC formula was a participant violation, which could have led to participants making these sales without realizing doing so was against program rules.”

In describing the child and household verification process, Zoë Neuberger, senior policy analyst, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said, “Once a child is approved based on an application, he or she receives free or reduced-price meals for the remainder of the school year unless the application is selected for eligibility verification…If the school district cannot verify eligibility from a third-party source, such as the state’s human services office (which can inform the school whether the child is enrolled in SNAP [Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps], cash assistance, or Medicaid), it must contact the household to ask for documentation of the child’s eligibility. If the household does not respond, the child’s free or reduced-price meals are terminated. If the household provides satisfactory documentation, the district uses it to assess whether the child may continue to receive free or reduced-price meals.”

The following witnesses also testified:

  • Gil Harden, assistant inspector general for Audit, USDA; and
  • Jessica Lucas-Judy, acting director, Forensic Audits and Investigative Service, GAO.
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