Education

LAUSD food director David Binkle removed from job amid accusations

Students at Gratts Learning Academy for Young Scholars eat lunch, which includes a hamburger, banana, fruit and milk. LA Unified's
Students at Gratts Learning Academy for Young Scholars eat lunch, which includes a hamburger, banana, fruit and milk. LA Unified's "food guru" David Binkle earned praise for helping to make LAUSD lunches healthier.
Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC

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The Los Angeles Unified School District’s food services director who helped the district receive praise for making school lunches healthier, has been removed from his post pending an investigation, the Los Angeles Times reported.

David Binkle, 52, is accused of failing to report payments from vendors to attend school conferences and ownership in a private food-related consulting firm, according to the Times. He denied wrongdoing in an email to the Times.

In a draft audit obtained by the Times, the district's Office of the Inspector General said it found money set aside by Binkle's department for marketing school meals was used instead to fund trips and food for political events.

"We found that the program is currently at a minimum being mismanaged and at worst being consistently abused," according to the inspector general's draft audit.

LAUSD's school meal program drew national acclaim under Binkle, who spearheaded the district initiative to serve breakfast in the classroom. The program is expected to serve more than 55 million meals this year.

The district released a statement Thursday confirming that Binkle was removed from his food services position:

David Binkle, Director, Food Services Division, has been temporarily reassigned pending the conclusion of an internal investigation into a confidential personnel matter. In the interim, Laura Benavidez and Timikel Sharpe, both Food Service Division Deputy Directors, are serving as co-directors.

We continue to serve good food defined as healthy, affordable, fair and sustainable daily to hundreds of thousands of our students.

This story has been updated.