USDA Foods from Farm to Plate: October 2015

USDA Foods from Farm to Plate

Business Management Improvement (BMI) / Business Process Review (BPR) of USDA Foods

USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) and Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) manage the USDA Foods program. Together, they have launched the USDA Foods Business Management Improvement project, a broad effort to review and re-engineer USDA's food procurement practices to improve the program for customers and stakeholders.

A contract for BMI/BPR support was awarded in September 2015. The contractor will facilitate review of existing processes supporting USDA Foods ordering, procurement and distribution and development of new processes to improve efficiency and performance for the nutrition assistance programs. A project kickoff meeting, held on October 22nd in Washington, DC, included representatives from AMS, FNS, other federal agencies, and the American Commodity Distribution Association. The meeting topics included an overview of the process and methodology of the BMI and a high level schedule for the project. Planning and project scope sessions will be conducted through the fall of 2015, with process review and design sessions planned to start in early 2016. USDA is interested in participation from all State, Recipient, Industry and Federal stakeholder groups. FNS will work with stakeholders to identify participants who will represent their stakeholder groups effectively, can commit the time required, and actively participate in the project.

News & Notes

New Faces and New (Virtual) Places at AMS!

Some exciting changes happened this summer at USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service!

First, AMS officially became home to all of USDA’s domestic commodity procurement activities on July 26, when the Farm Service Agency’s (FSA) Domestic Procurement Division joined the AMS team. Commodity Procurement (CP) Program employees were delighted to welcome the 20 former-FSA professionals to the new AMS “Kansas City Contracting Branch.”

Consolidating all of USDA’s domestic food procurement functions into a single agency will improve efficiency and streamline operations. Combined, the newly consolidated staff will purchase about $2 billion of USDA Foods annually, everything from cheese and chicken to pasta and peaches!

Only days after welcoming the new staff to the agency, AMS launched a new and improved website at The new site features an entire section called Selling Food to USDA where the public can find information about AMS commodity purchasing, including USDA Foods product specifications, requirements for federal contracting, and information on current opportunities to sell to USDA. Take a look around the new site to find out about other services AMS provides to support the marketing of American agricultural products, including local food research and development, the National Organic Program, farmers market promotion grants, and more.

Sign up for AMS Communications via GovDelivery!

At this time, procurement communications regarding domestic dairy, grain, and oilseed products are being communicated through AMS GovDelivery. To receive procurement emails for these products, please subscribe at:

Domestic meat, poultry, fruit and vegetable product activities are still being communicated via AMSCPNews. To receive procurement emails for these products, please subscribe at: AMS plans to migrate AMSCPNews subscriptions to AMS GovDelivery in the future and have a single listserv to all stakeholders. At that time, updated information for receiving the emails will be provided.

New AMS team
The Commodity Procurement Program welcomes its new employees from the Farm Service Agency’s Domestic Procurement Division, which recently merged with AMS: (First row) Trevor Wilson, Christine Gouger, Helen Rivera, Cheryl Davis, Jeff Jackson, Martha Johnson (Second row) David Jackson, Steve Bishop, Patty Wagner, Carol Givens-Verser, Bill Lang, Steve Mochel (Back row) Mary Mahoney, Shirley Clayton, Rachel Hight, Clyde King

You are Invited to a Webinar!

Registration is now available for the Institute of Child Nutrition’s webinar, titled "Manufacturer’s Product Formulation (PFS): Is It Acceptable?," scheduled on November 10, 2015 at 11:30 am EST. During this webinar, USDA FNS Headquarters Child Nutrition staff will provide a step by step review of the Manufacturer’s PFS and hands-on activities to determine if the documents are acceptable. The target audience for this webinar is Regional Office Staff, State Agency Staff, and Industry.

A Manufacturer’s Product Formulation Statement (PFS) is provided for processed products that do not have a CN Label. A PFS communicates how a product may contribute to the meal pattern requirements of the USDA’s, Child Nutrition (CN) Programs. During this webinar, HQ CND staff will provide a step by step review of the Manufacturer’s PFS and hands-on activities to determine if the document is acceptable. 

To participate, please click on the link below to register:

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar. If you are unable to attend the LIVE webinar, there will be a recording of the webinar available on the ICN website 24-48 hours after the live webinar. The recording will be located on the ICN website at

Blurbs from Blogs

USDA's Commitment to Quality Foods

Across the country, schools are back in session. Here at the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), our inspectors and procurement specialists work hard to make sure that quality, domestically-produced foods are delivered to students and other recipients for our federal food purchasing programs. As students are getting used to their new schedules, we would like to highlight how our own little field trip shed some light on a typical day for some of our employees.

A team of AMS employees recently traveled to Knouse Foods, a grower-owned cooperative that supplies apple and cranberry products for federal food purchasing programs. The employees saw first-hand how USDA inspectors help Knouse and other companies verify the quality of their products. As the apple sauce traveled through the facility, USDA inspectors pulled random samples to make sure that they met product quality and condition requirements. All USDA Foods are required to be inspected, and in this case, inspectors pulled samples of apple sauce to evaluate traits like its color, flavor, and consistency. As an independent third-party, the inspections help suppliers meet USDA Foods requirements but they also can help them meet requirements from other buyers. Read more

“We create opportunities for American ag businesses,” said Casey Wong-Buehler, AMS Commodity Procurement Program Specialist. “Trips like this help us ensure that our procurement requirements provide a realistic framework for our vendors to successfully supply quality food.”

Policy Corner

Using State Administrative Expense (SAE) Funds for Food Distribution Expenses

SAE funds are allocated by FNS to State agencies, in accordance with 7 CFR part 235.4, for administrative costs incurred in the Child Nutrition Programs, including the Food Distribution Program which provides USDA Foods to applicable programs.  State agencies are encouraged to use SAE funds, to the maximum extent allowable and practicable, to minimize the charges imposed on school food authorities for the storage and distribution of USDA Foods, and related administrative costs.  State agencies administering Child Nutrition Programs in the same State (e.g., the State administering agency and State distributing agency) should communicate with one another regarding unmet funding needs.  A State agency may transfer any amount of SAE funds that are not needed to implement its approved SAE plan to another State agency within the same State that is eligible to receive SAE funds under 7 CFR part 235.  State agencies should work together to effectuate such transfers, in accordance with applicable program policy and regulations, before returning unexpended funds to FNS.  For more details, including limitations on carryover of SAE from one year to the next, see Policy Memorandum FD-131.

Program Spotlight

Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Administering FDPIR Starting in FY 2016

Welcome to our newest Indian Tribal Organization (ITO), Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians! On October 1, 2015, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture (NC DOA) handed over administration of FDPIR to Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI).  EBCI and NC DOA have been working together on the transition plan throughout the prior fiscal year. USDA FNS Southeast Regional Office staff visited with EBCI on September 15-17, to provide support and additional technical training to EBCI staff. EBCI is excited to administer the Program in FY 2016. This ITO has future plans to convert to a much larger warehouse using a grocery store concept for FDPIR.  In addition, plans are being made to offer additional tailgate and home delivery opportunities to clients.   

Eastern band
EBCI Distribution Center

Technology Synopsis

Receipting in FFAVORS

In July, a new receipting requirement in the Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Order Receipt System (FFAVORS) was implemented. Previously, all items on an order were automatically receipted after seven days unless a manual receipt was entered. Automatic receipting could lead to inaccurate drawdown of entitlement funds and/or improper vendor payments. All orders must now be manually receipted within seven calendar days of the Requested Delivery Date (RDD).

Receipting is the process for confirming what was received vs. what was ordered. The steps for receipting are outlined in the FFAVORS WEB Ordering Manual, which can be found via the “Help” link in the FFAVORS application. Receipting involves (1) updating the quantity received (if applicable), (2) selecting a reason code for quantity update (if applicable), and (3) processing the receipt.


The latest statistics show that approximately 92% of all FFAVORS orders are being receipted on time. Thanks to all recipient agencies that are manually receipting. If deliveries are not receipted, the recipient agency will not be able to place a subsequent order.

Questions about receipting should be directed to the assigned Defense Logistics Agency point of contact or to the FFAVORS Help Desk at:

Site Visits

FNS Staff Visits Apple Packing Facility

On September 29, 2015, Food Distribution Division staff visited Bowman Fruit Sales a family owned operation located in Timberville, Virginia. They grow, pack, and ship 13 different varieties of apples.  The apples are grown in family-owned orchards in Shenandoah and Rockingham counties. Most of Virginia’s apples are grown in the Shenandoah Valley due to the warm days, cool nights and consistent rainfall that provides an ideal climate for growing many apple varieties. Apples are harvested from July through October. Apple production in Virginia is approximately 400 million pounds a year. The apples are moved into cold storage within hours of being picked which helps the fruit to maintain peak quality. Bowman Fruit Sale's packing and storage facility, which includes both cold storage and controlled atmosphere permits Virginia grown apples to be packed 11 months of the year. The company sells apples at two local fruit markets, distributes to several major retailers in the greater Washington, DC area and exports to countries around the world. Bowman Fruit Sales offers local schools an educational outreach program, “tree to table” to help educate children about how apples are grown and move from the orchard to the table.

apple 2
USDA FNS Headquarters Food Distribution Division staff attend the Bowman’s apple packing facility

USDA Food History Fun Facts

Foods Costs from 1994-2014

Although food prices have increased over the years and the program has added additional nutrition standards for the food products available, USDA continues to purchase about the same quantity of food products to continue to provide needed support for schools and Child Nutrition Programs. Looking at the total pounds purchased from 1994 to 2014, the total volume of food purchased for Child Nutrition Programs stayed relatively stable at 1.04 billion pounds in 1994 and 1.08 billion pounds in 2014. 

On the Horizon

Food Distribution staff will be participating in these upcoming national meetings in 2015. We look forward to these opportunities to meet you and hope to see you there!

NERO/MARO CSFP Meeting - December 2-4, 2015 in Alexandria, Virginia

FDPIR Food Package Work Group Meeting - December 8-9, 2015 in Alexandria, Virginia

How to Sign Up for USDA Foods E-letters

Here's how to sign up for these updates via GovDelivery:

1. Go to the FNS website:

2. Click on the red envelope on the row of social media icons on the top right of the page.

3. Enter your email address and click "Submit."

4. Check the boxes to select your topics of interest.  For these e-letters, scroll down to the Food Distribution category and click the plus sign to the left of the check box to expand the list and view all the sub-categories.  Check these sub-categories to receive the corresponding e-letters:

*USDA Foods --> receive all "USDA Foods from Farm to Plate" general + program-specific e-letters

*Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) --> receive "Household Highlights" e-letter

*The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) --> receive "Household Highlights" e-letter

*Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR) --> receive "FDPIR Connection" e-letter

*Schools/Child Nutrition Commodity Programs --> receive "Spotlight on Schools" e-letter

5. Update your subscription preferences any time by following the above steps or clicking on the Subscriber Preferences Page link at the bottom of any of the e-letter email messages you receive from GovDelivery.  Questions?  Contact us at