USDA Foods from Farm to Plate: Spotlight on Schools, November 2015

Spotlight on Schools

Food Distribution Adds a Branch to the Division's Tree!

Welcome to the Program Integrity and Monitoring Branch

The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), Food Distribution Division (FDD) is pleased to announce its newest branch, the Program Integrity and Monitoring Branch (PIMB), as part of a recent reorganization. The branch's oversight responsibilities include the National Processing Program, USDA Foods entitlement for schools, DoD Fresh, USDA Foods customer feedback, and disaster feeding. PIMB members include veteran FDD staff from other branches as well as new hires you may recognize from the State or Regional level.

PIMB staff (left to right) are Denise Branscome, Linda Hubeny, David Leggett, Blair Tucker-Gruchala, Andre Orange, Branch Chief Kathy Staley, Tony Wilkins, and Karen Laskin. Not pictured are Sherry Thackeray and Janet West.

"Show Us Your Tray" Photo Contest!

We would like to see the wonderful meals you prepare for your students using USDA Foods! Your submissions will serve to inspire others with fun and creative ways to use their USDA Foods as well.

What to Enter:

  1. Photos of your school meals on the serving line or on a tray (please indicate which items are USDA Foods)
  2. Your name, school district, and state


The USDA Foods school photo contest begins December 1, 2015, and ends February 1, 2016, at 11:59 p.m. EST. Please send all entries to the USDA Foods mailbox (

Winning submissions will be featured in an upcoming USDA Foods from Farm to Plate e-letter!

school lunch tray
By submitting photos to this contest, you consent that photos may be used by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and/or others with the consent of USDA, for the purposes of illustration or publication in any legally authorized manner. You understand that these pictures and information will be used in educational materials, such as USDA brochures, newsletters, videos, or news releases, to help others understand how USDA programs help people. The pictures and information will not be used for any commercial, money-making purpose.

Resource Roundup


USDA Foods Complaints Webinar Series

Our new Program Integrity and Monitoring Branch will be hosting a pair of complaints-geared webinars:  

The 1st webinar, Demystifying the USDA Foods Complaint Process, will take place Friday, December 11, 2015, 2-3 p.m. EST. Register here.

The 2nd webinar, Applying the USDA Foods Complaint Process: Common Questions and Scenarios, will follow on Thursday, January 7, 2016, 2-3 p.m. EST.

As always, you can access previous FDD webinar recordings on our YouTube channel by visiting the Food Distribution playlist.

Blurbs from Blogs

School Meals from Around the World

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is expanding its efforts to provide children with affordable school meals. Agriculture Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden announced that seven new school feeding projects could benefit more than 2.5 million children in Africa and Central America. Through the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program, the USDA works with private voluntary organizations and foreign governments in developing countries around the globe to reduce hunger and improve literacy and primary education. Since the program was established in 2002, it has benefited more than 30 million children in 38 countries. Click here to read the USDA press release.

Conference Clips

Record Attendance at the 2015 Annual Industry Meeting for USDA Foods Contractors and Suppliers

On October 27 and 28, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) Commodity Procurement Staff hosted its annual Industry Meeting for USDA Foods Contractors and Suppliers in Arlington, Virginia. With 153 companies and industry organizations represented, including over 50 small business USDA Foods contractors, the AMS Industry Meeting has grown considerably over the past few years. Opening remarks from AMS Administrator Anne Alonzo and FNS Deputy Administrator Diane Kriviski started the event off with gusto!

The record turnout this fall was, in part, due to the recent consolidation of USDA Foods purchasing activities, which reassigned the domestic food procurement activities and staff of the Farm Service Agency to AMS. AMS was pleased to welcome over 25 dairy, cheese, grain, and oilseed product suppliers to the meeting for the first time ever!

The Industry Meeting featured many formal and informal networking opportunities, breakout sessions, and discussions on a range of topics from USDA Foods specifications to delivery and invoicing processes and priorities for the upcoming purchase year.

With stakeholders from across the USDA Foods supply chain in attendance, this event is tremendously important to USDA’s ongoing commitment to providing high quality, nutritious food to our nutrition assistance programs. USDA staff are already hard at work making improvements to product specification and procurement activities based on feedback from our industry partners! 

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Food Distribution Division Director Laura Castro discusses the USDA/FNS Initiatives at the Industry Conference.

How to Receive USDA Foods Solicitation and Award Notifications

Group A

For AMS "Group A" domestic meat, poultry, fruit, and vegetable products, activities are still being communicated via AMSCPNews. To receive procurement emails for these products, please subscribe here. 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.


"Group B" procurement communications regarding domestic dairy, grain, and oilseed products are communicated through AMS GovDelivery. To receive procurement emails for these products, please subscribe here.

USDA Foods New Product Exploration Process

At USDA, we are often asked, “How do you decide what foods you are going to buy for the USDA Foods program?” That’s not a simple question to answer as there is an extensive process in place to review and consider new products for the USDA Foods program that involves stakeholders, such as school districts and industry partners, as well as our own subject matter experts at USDA, such as economists, food scientists, contract specialists, and nutritionists. 

Once USDA has identified that there is widespread interest in a product, we approach industry to collect more information to facilitate internal discussions and decisions. This part of the process is known as a Request for Information (RFI) and involves reaching out to industry with a formal request about a product to better understand factors such as the current availability, specifications, and vendor interest in supplying the product to USDA. Recently, USDA has put out a number of RFIs to collect information that will be used when making decisions about new products for the 2016-17 school year. While the RFI is a signal to industry that USDA and its customers are interested in a product, this is only the initial step in the process. Subsequent steps include further discussion with interested industry groups, evaluation of the product, and development of a specification. USDA has been working diligently over the past year to explore a variety of potential new products and will announce decisions to States, school districts, and industry through the publication of the Foods Available List. Keep your eyes open for the announcement of the new SY16-17 Foods Available List next month!  

Technology Synopsis

Rolling Down WBSCM to School Districts and Other RAs 

One convenient feature of the Web-Based Supply Chain Management (WBSCM) system is the ability to support real time, request-driven ordering, so school districts and other recipient agencies (RAs) can anticipate what they will receive. These RAs are able to review a state-approved catalog of available items and to request the types and quantities of USDA Foods they would like to receive.

There are currently three State Distributing Agencies (SDAs) partnering with FNS to implement WBSCM roll-down to RAs. FNS can provide general resources and guidance. Ultimately, the decision to implement WBSCM at the RA level is up to the SDA, who will be responsible for operations decisions, business processes, setting up RA accounts, and training and supporting RA staff. SDAs who are interested in extending WBSCM to RAs may contact Danielle Ziegler in FNS’s Food Distribution Technology Branch at or at 703-305-2925.

Program Spotlight

Partnering for Pilot Success in Oregon

Last December, USDA announced the selection of eight States to participate in the Pilot Project for Procurement of Unprocessed Fruits and Vegetables, as directed by the Agricultural Act of 2014 (the Farm Bill). The pilot provides selected States with additional flexibility in the procurement of unprocessed fruits and vegetables using existing USDA Foods National School Lunch Program entitlement funds. The pilot also helps create and expand market opportunities for our nation’s fruit and vegetable producers, opening the door for a variety of vendors, small growers, food hubs, and distributors to supply unprocessed fruits and vegetables to participating schools.

One of the selected States – Oregon – has already spent over $100,000 of its USDA Foods entitlement dollars on unprocessed fruits and vegetables under the pilot, and plans to spend an additional $400,000 this school year to help bring even more nutritious and local foods to Oregon students. Participating Oregon schools have received Oregon-grown Bartlett and Bosc pears through the pilot, in addition to apples, carrots, broccoli, and spinach grown in the region.

The Oregon Department of Education is working in partnership with the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) to implement the pilot and bring interested fruit and vegetable producers on board in the state. ODA is conducting trainings and operating a cost-share program to assist farmers in obtaining required food safety certifications. Oregon now has five vendors eligible to participate under the pilot with several more pending approval.

Oregon is one of seven States that started receiving deliveries under the pilot, with another State to begin receiving deliveries later this school year. Almost $1 million in USDA Foods entitlement funds have been spent on the pilot so far and over 60 vendors throughout the country are now eligible to participate.

For more information on the pilot, visit the Pilot Project for Procurement of Unprocessed Fruits and Vegetables webpage.

Blast from the Past

Meals before and after 2012 Regulatory Requirements under "Nutrition Standards in the National School Lunch Program"

On the Horizon

Food Distribution staff will be participating in these upcoming national meetings in 2016. We look forward to these opportunities to meet you and hope to see you there!

May 9-11: American Commodity Distribution Association (ACDA) Annual Conference in St. Pete Beach, Florida

July 10-13: School Nutrition Association (SNA) Annual National Conference in San Antonio, Texas

How to Sign Up for USDA Foods E-Letters

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

1. Go to the Food Distribution 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