Food Distribution Program
General Information

Program Overview:

Type of Outlets:

Foods:

 

How the Food Distribution Program Works

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) purchases donated foods through direct appropriations from Congress, and under surplus-removal and price support activities for the Food Distribution Program.

The USDA Food Distribution Program provides two vital national services. The program provides nutritious foods to our nations children and helps American farmers by supporting domestic agriculture and removing surpluses from the market.

The USDA provides these services through the cooperative efforts of three of its agencies. The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) distributes donated foods to designated outlets. The Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) buys fruits, vegetables, meat, fish and poultry items when supply exceeds demand, removing them from the regular channels of trade. The Farm Service Agency (FSA) obtains other foods such as grain, dairy, vegetable oil and peanut products. It is the ever-changing marketplace that determines how much of each donated food USDA can purchase and when those foods can be purchased.  

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Eligible Outlets

USDA donated foods are distributed to State Distributing Agencies (SDA) for use by eligible outlets. The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services acts as the Distributing Agency for USDA donated foods. Eligible outlets include schools and residential child care institutions participating in the National School Lunch Program, child care centers participating in the Child Care Food Program, approved sponsors of a Summer Food Service Program, and food banks, food pantries, soup kitchens, etc. participating in The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP).

The USDA offers a wide variety of donated foods for distribution to eligible outlets. The Department strives to buy foods that support the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. These guidelines are a set of Federal recommendations that promote healthful eating. USDA continually improves its donated foods to ensure that they are nutritious and acceptable to children.

USDA donated foods represent about 15 to 20 percent of the market value of the foods schools serve. The foods that the USDA donates varies depending on what farm products are available.

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National School Lunch Program

The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) is a federally assisted meal program operating in more than 99,800 public and nonprofit private schools and residential child care institutions. It provides nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches to more than 26 million children each school day. The program was established under the National School Lunch Act, signed by President Harry Truman in 1946. 

In Nebraska, participating agencies get donated foods from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for each meal they serve.  In return, they must serve lunches that meet Federal requirements, and they must offer free or reduced price lunches to eligible children.

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Child Care Food Program

CACFP is the Child and Adult Care Food Program, a Federal program that provides healthy meals and snacks to children and adults receiving day care.  It plays a vital role in improving the quality of day care and making it more affordable for many low-income families. 

CACFP reimburses participating centers and day care homes for their meal costs. It is administered at the Federal level by the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The State education or health department administers CACFP, in most States. Independent centers and sponsoring organizations enter into agreements with their State agencies to operate the program. 

CACFP is the Child and Adult Care Food Program, a Federal program that provides healthy meals and snacks to children and adults receiving day care.  It plays a vital role in improving the quality of day care and making it more affordable for many low-income families. CACFP reimburses participating centers and day care homes for their meal costs. It is administered at the Federal level by the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The State education or health department administers CACFP, in most States. Independent centers and sponsoring organizations enter into agreements with their State agencies to operate the program. 

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Charitable Institutions

They are categorized as:

  1. Non-penal, non-educational public (federal, state, or local) institutions.
  2. Nonprofit tax-exempt private hospitals
  3. Other noneducational, tax-exempt, private institutions organized for charitable or public welfare uses, including but not limited to, homes for aged persons, homes for children, and the Meals-on-Wheels Feeding Programs. A copy of the letter showing tax-exempt status must be furnished to the FDP office. In this case, tax exemption means exemption from income tax under the Internal Revenue Code of 1939, as amended in 1954, Section 501(c)(3). Institutions will be considered noneducational even though educational courses are given, when such courses are for the primary purpose of the institutions.

The following persons are eligible to receive USDA-donated foods:

    1. Persons financially unable to pay the full charges assessed for services provided them;
    2. Persons eligible to receive a grant under the Federally Aided Public Assistance Program of Aid to Families with Dependent Children, or under any state or local general assistance program;
    3. Persons eligible to receive USDA food assistance (Food Stamps) if that person was not an inmate of a Correctional Institution.

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Summer Food Service Program

The Summer Food Service Program was created to ensure that children in lower-income areas could continue to receive nutritious meals during long school vacations when they do not have access to school lunch or breakfast. Although millions of children depend on nutritious free and reduced-price meals and snacks at school for 9 months out of the year, just a fraction of that receive the free meals provided by the SFSP during the summer months.

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TEFAP

The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) is a Federal program that helps supplement the diets of low-income Americans, including elderly people, by providing them with emergency food and nutrition assistance at no cost.

Under TEFAP, USDA donated foods are made available by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to States. States provide the food to local agencies that they have selected, usually food banks, which in turn, distribute the food to soup kitchens and food pantries that directly serve the public.

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Entitlement Foods

Federal law mandates a national level of donated food assistance for schools based on each data for each state. The national assistance level is referred to as a donated food entitlement. FNS ensures that enough foods are purchased and delivered to states in order to meet the donated food entitlement. The State Distributing Agency is responsible for distributing entitlement allotments to each recipient agency.

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Bonus USDA Donated Foods

When unusually large surpluses occur, the USDA may make those surplus donated foods available to states with no charge against entitlement. These foods are classified as bonus donated foods because they are not charged against entitlement. Bonus foods are offered in addition to entitlement donated foods.

In some instances USDA will make bonus foods available to charitable and correctional institutions when School and/or TEFAP outlets cannot utilize the bonus foods. There are no direct congressional donated food appropriations for charitable and correctional institutions. Each State has authorization to choose whether or not to make bonus foods available to charitable and correctional institutions. Nebraska does make this option available when bonus foods are offered and cannot be used by other eligible outlets.

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USDA Donated Foods Group A & B

Group A – Group A donated foods are purchased by the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) and include fruits, vegetables, poultry, eggs and meat. The USDA issues food surveys to each state. States determine quantities to be ordered based on what has been offered by USDA. Offerings are calculated based on total State entitlements.

Group B – Group B donated foods are purchased by the Farm Service Agency (FSA) and include grains, cheeses, oil, dry milk and peanut butter. Group B foods are available for ordering from USDA monthly.  

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