USDA Foods from Farm to Plate: December 2017

USDA Foods from Farm to Plate

News & Notes

USDA Foods for Disaster Assistance

Food Aid for Disaster Survivors

Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria hit Texas, Florida, Georgia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands this past hurricane season. These record-breaking disasters affected millions of people. In the aftermath of events like these, food is often one of the most immediate needs. Many times, grocery stores are closed or destroyed, as are restaurants, and food previously purchased by families is ruined or unavailable. Emergency food is essential when people find themselves suddenly in need as a result of a hurricane, flood, or other emergency. The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) is part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) National Response Framework. State Distributing Agencies may provide inventories of USDA Foods to disaster relief agencies such as the Red Cross and Salvation Army for congregate feeding when the President issues a disaster declaration, and in certain other types of emergencies. USDA Foods intended for the National School Lunch Program are most often used for congregate feeding. States can also release, with FNS approval, USDA Foods for household distribution.

Each disaster response is unique, so advance preparation is essential. To help you prepare, we offer these best practices:

  • Review and have a paper copy of the USDA Foods Disaster Manual readily available, and educate your organizations at the local level on availability of USDA Foods.
  • Conduct annual training and networking with local disaster feeding organizations.
  • Most importantly, maintain up-to-date 24/7 contact information for your State Emergency Support Function (ESF)-6 Mass Care Coordinator, ESF-11 Agriculture & Natural Resources Coordinator, School Food Service Directors, Food Bank representatives, and FNS Regional Office Disaster Coordinators. 

When the disaster efforts have ended, the State Distributing Agency must report the number and location of sites where USDA Foods were used or distributed and the types and amounts of USDA Foods used on the FNS292A, Report of Commodity Distribution for Disaster Relief.

For more information, visit the Food Distribution Disaster Assistance page.

Coastal Bend Food Bank

A Coastal Bend Food Bank volunteer helps a Corpus Christi resident take food to her car. Families affected by Hurricane Harvey received food packages containing nutritious, high-quality foods--100 percent grown and produced on farms in the U.S.--known as USDA Foods.

BMI Update: Pilot Project Implementation Planning

FNS and the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) are currently defining Business Management Improvement (BMI) pilots for implementation starting in Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 based on process areas identified in the business case and implementation plan documents. Teams of FNS and AMS staff are attending workshops to define pilot scope in terms of duration, products, geographic region, automation or data requirements; stakeholder involvement; and metrics for pilot evaluation.

Six process area pilots are being considered:

  1. Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) / SKU rationalization
  2. Long Term Contracting
  3. Forecasting (Top Down predictive modeling)
  4. Transportation
  5. Supplier Management
  6. Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) for supplier data exchange

These pilots were targeted because they can be better defined and more easily managed with existing resources. Some are pre-requisites or supporting activities for additional process area pilots. Work will continue, with the resources available, to include other process area pilots in FY 2019.

Any questions or comments about the BMI may be directed to

New Resource for States: Standard Operating Procedures

The Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for State Distributing Agencies managing USDA Foods for Child Nutrition Programs are now available via PartnerWeb. The SOPs offer information on Web-Based Supply Chain Management (WBSCM) registration, WBSCM guidance, and WBSCM training resources. In addition, the SOPs contain sections that will assist States with pre-planning, catalog maintenance, ordering timeframes, order management, entitlement information, and complaints. Updates to the SOPs will be made as processes change in the management of USDA Foods.

Featured Food

White Whole Wheat Flour

White Whole Wheat Flour

Get the nutrition value of a whole grain flour and the look of a non-whole grain item with the new white whole wheat flour now available to Child Nutrition Programs, the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR), and The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP)! White whole wheat flour is a 100% whole grain product with a milder flavor and lighter color. It can be used to replace whole wheat flour in any recipe and provides a nice light texture for baking. Check out the What’s Cooking USDA Mixing Bowl for household recipe ideas, including whole wheat muffins and whole wheat pancakes.     

Policy Corner

On November 21, the Food Distribution Division released a revised version of FD-107, titled Donated Food Storage, Distribution, and Product Dating. This memorandum provides clarification on policies and procedures for donated food storage and distribution based on updated program regulations and current USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service guidance. It also provides additional guidance on first-in-first-out inventory management procedures; product dating conventions including pack codes, date of pack, and manufacturing dates; out-of-condition foods; foods with special handling requirements, such as dried fruits, grains, and string cheese; and general resources for further information on food safety and USDA Foods complaint procedures. The policy memorandum can be found on the Food Distribution Policy page.

Out & About

Recent and Upcoming Training Opportunities from USDA!

USDA recently hosted two training events for new State Agency staff working with USDA Foods in schools. These events, one in Dallas, Texas, on November 14-15 and the other in Alexandria, Virginia, on December 12-13, provided an introductory overview of USDA Foods in school programs. Attendees participated in interactive sessions on a range of topics, including the history of USDA Foods, entitlement management, State standard operating procedures, demand-driven ordering, processing, and responding to disasters. Attendees were also given the opportunity to meet individually with USDA staff to get more specific technical assistance. 

In addition to these training events, the Food Distribution Division is currently planning webinars for 2018. These webinars will cover topics related to all USDA Foods programs, so stay tuned for those announcements! If you're interested in receiving information about our webinars, visit your GovDelivery Subscriber Preferences Page to review the topics you're signed up for and, if you're not yet on our webinar list, click on "Add Subscriptions" to select your additional topic(s) of interest:

  • Webinars - Schools/Child Nutrition USDA Foods Programs
  • Webinars - CSFP
  • Webinars - TEFAP
  • Webinars - FDPIR

State Agency Training

USDA nutritionist Christina Riley shares recipe ideas at the training for new State Agency staff working with USDA Foods in schools in Dallas, Texas, in November.

Conference Clips

2017 Annual Industry Meeting for USDA Foods Contractors and Suppliers

On October 24 and 25, USDA held its annual meeting with current and potential vendors for the USDA Foods program. This meeting allows USDA staff to update suppliers on new products and processes and provides the opportunity for dialogue between USDA and industry partners. Across two days, participants learned about new initiatives from the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) and Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), new products under development and changes to product specifications, and topics specific to each industry. Attendees also heard updates on the Business Management Improvement (BMI) initiative. During BMI sessions, participants broke out into small groups, where USDA staff facilitated discussions on topics important to our industry partners. These discussions provided valuable feedback that will help USDA as the BMI initiative continues.

Technology Synopsis

New Navigation Features for WBSCM

The most recent Web-Based Supply Chain Management (WBSCM) releases and the October software upgrade implemented new or enhanced navigation features and resources to make WBSCM more user-friendly. A summary of these changes is available in the WBSCM document library at Help->Training->Job Aids->General Help->WBSCM Upgrade Summary-October 2017.

New or enhanced navigation features include:

  • Navigation path (“breadcrumbs”) for the current transaction
  • Navigation buttons on menu bar: Back, Forward, History, and Favorites. History provides links to the 12 most recently accessed transactions. Favorites allows users to create and organize shortcuts to the transactions they use most frequently.
  • Options button (formerly a non-descript icon) now labeled

Additionally, the following resources have been added to improve the user experience with WBSCM:

  • Important news and reminders in on-screen announcement banner
  • New video tutorial available in WBSCM  to demonstrate system navigation and point out helpful tools and resources
  • Descriptions and guidance added to the Help tabs

WBSCM Navigation

WBSCM releases are implemented each month, and all users are encouraged to review the latest Release Notes for system changes that impact them. This information can be found in the WBSCM document library at Help->Training->Release Notes->Release Notes.

If you have questions about these changes, contact the WBSCM Service Desk or call (877) 927-2648.

Creating New WBSCM Users for Suborganizations (RAs & Co-Ops)

In addition to setting up new Recipient Agency (RA) or Co-Op organizations in Web-Based Supply Chain Management (WBSCM), the User/Organization Administrator for the State Distributing Agency (SDA) or Indian Tribal Organization (ITO) can also create new users for these suborganizations through manual entry (Admin tab -> Manage Users tab -> Manage Users) or through the upload data file for new RA organizations (Admin tab -> Organization Maintenance tab -> Upload New RA Organizations).

Prior to the December WBSCM release, new users created for suborganizations by the SDA/ITO User/Organization Administrators could only assign the administrator user security roles. After the new user was created, a User Administrator from the suborganization then had to assign additional roles to allow the new user--including themselves, if applicable--to access reports and order management transactions.

User Admin - Before

Following the December 2017 WBSCM release, when setting up a new user for a suborganization, SDA and ITO User/Organization Administrators can now select from all roles available to the new user’s organization.

User Admin - After

Guidance for creating a new user in WBSCM can be found in the WBSCM document library at Help->Training->Work Instructions->External->Fulfillment->Domestic->Create User.

If you have questions about these changes, contact the WBSCM Service Desk or call (877) 927-2648.

On the Horizon

USDA staff will be participating in these upcoming meetings in 2018. We look forward to the opportunity to meet you and hope to see you there!

February 25-27: National Anti-Hunger Policy Conference in Washington, DC, co-sponsored by Feeding America and the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) in cooperation with the National CACFP (Child and Adult Care Food Program) Forum.

March 4-6: School Nutrition Association (SNA) Legislative Action Conference in Washington, DC.

April 29 - May 2: American Commodity Distribution Association (ACDA) Annual National Conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

May 20-23: National Commodity Supplemental Food Program Association (NCSFPA) Annual Conference in Fort Myers, Florida.

June 11-15: National Association of Food Distribution Programs on Indian Reservations (NAFDPIR) Annual Conference in Reno, Nevada.

How to Sign Up for the USDA Foods E-Letter


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