Officials: Charter school served unsafe food to students

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An audit showed Lincoln Memorial Academy was $500,000 in debt and had $780,000 in unpaid invoices. The School District of Manatee County says that's why it revoked the Palmetto school's charter in July.

Hearings continued Tuesday to determine whether the school district was justified, but much of the focus was on the school's summer meals, and whether they were safe for children.

The school district wanted to know why Lincoln Memorial Academy was buying lunch meals from Sam's Club and Aldi, instead of its usual school lunch program. The county's director of food services filled in those blanks.

"I believe it was non-payment," Manatee County's Director of Food and Nutrition Services Regina Thoma said when asked why US Foods stopped delivering to the school in May.

Thoma said a staff member had to go buy food to make lunches when US Foods stopped delivering.

The district said purchased foods didn't have proper nutrition labels and didn't meet standards of the USDA for school-provided lunches.

"The child nutrition nugget is going to tell you this is one meat and one grain, whereas if you're buying from the store, you have to look into weights and measures and know more, a lot about the product than is readily available," Thoma said.

LINK: Feds: Missing funds, uncertified teachers among problems at Palmetto charter school

Food storage was also in question. The district said photos taken from the school's cafeteria in late July show there were no dates on products and raw products being improperly stored.

The school's consultant, Christopher Norwood objected.

"These photos were taken after the termination of the charter. They're taking pictures four days after the charter. They are in control of the school," Norwood said, referring to the school district having already taken over operations.

Judge Robert Cohen seemed to be frustrated over the school's lack of records after the district made eight written requests for them.

"I just can't believe a school that I know is full of computers and record keeping and has a CEO and CFO and HR person, that there's not records. There have to be records!" Cohen said.

Norwood says access to records was discontinued after the district took hold of the school.