USDA Foods from Farm to Plate: Household Highlights, February 2018

USDA Foods - Household Highlights

News & Notes

The Foods Available Lists are Getting a Makeover!


Each year, USDA publishes a list of foods expected to be available for each of our food distribution programs. This year, these lists are taking on a new, colorful look that will also provide programs with information about how each food offered can help Americans meet the dietary recommendations based on MyPlate. USDA recently launched the new versions of the Foods Available Lists for The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) and the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) that highlight the variety of nutritious foods available through each program and how these foods contribute to a healthy diet. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans make recommendations about the types and variety of vegetables and other foods that are needed for a healthy diet. Some information, such as the vegetable subgroups, may be unfamiliar to many people. The information provided in the Foods Available List is intended to help programs understand the different types of vegetables available through USDA Foods and to encourage programs to offer a variety of different options. Likewise, the whole grain labels can help programs to select a variety of grains, including both whole grains and enriched grain options to meet their meal planning needs. If you have questions or feedback about the new look or the information provided, please contact us at

Blurbs from Blogs

What's Cooking? USDA Mixing Bowl's #2017BestNine

Chicken Salad

As 2017 has come to a close, the What’s Cooking team at USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service is joining the #2017BestNine fun – a social media trend where users share their favorite or most popular moments of the year – by taking a look back at our top-viewed recipes. From quinoa to quesadillas, we are proud to share our users’ favorite recipes.

Click here to read the rest of the blog and view the nine recipes, including Food Distribution's Chicken Salad!

Out & About

Visiting CSFP and TEFAP in the Valley

During a scheduled trip to the Las Vegas, Nevada, area for USDA-related meetings, USDA staff had the opportunity to visit East Valley Family Services, an organization that supports individuals and families through a variety of programs targeted to households in need. Among programs and services offered, East Valley Family Services operates two of USDA’s food distribution programs, TEFAP and CSFP. The organization serves the Las Vegas valley, a large area within the state of Nevada, with the mission to help families, children, and seniors become and remain self-sufficient and healthy. During the visit, USDA staff had the opportunity to learn more about local operations and tour both the intake area and warehouse distribution area. At the time of the visit, East Valley Family Services staff were putting CSFP food packages together and organizing for a senior distribution later in the day.

East Valley Family Services

Pictured above are staff from USDA, Nevada Department of Agriculture, and East Valley Family Services during a recent USDA visit to Nevada.

Volunteering at the Arlington Food Assistance Center

While we enjoy visiting State and local partners around the country when we have the opportunity, we also enjoy getting out and about to visit food assistance organizations close to home. USDA staff recently volunteered at the Arlington Food Assistance Center in Arlington, Virginia. We learned about the food pantry's operations and helped with bagging oranges, potatoes, zucchini, and onions to be distributed to clients.

Volunteering at Arlington Food Assistance Center

Policy Corner

CSFP 2018 Caseload

On January 3, the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) issued tentative 2018 CSFP caseload assignments and administrative grants. The tentative national caseload level, or number of people States and Indian Tribal Organizations (ITOs) are authorized to serve on an average monthly basis, is 728,552 for the 2018 caseload cycle, which is a 30,687 slot increase from 2017. FNS is also adding three new States and ITOs to the program: Puerto Rico, Seminole Nation in Oklahoma, and Wyoming. CSFP is now offered in 49 States, three ITOs, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Tentative caseload levels are contingent on program funding and FNS will issue final caseload and administrative grants once Congress takes final action on the Fiscal Year 2018 appropriation.

Complaint Resolution Pipeline

We often get questions on food storage requirements for USDA Foods, especially for the cheese products offered in CSFP and TEFAP. Proper storage and handling of USDA Foods cheese throughout distribution is essential to maintain food safety and product quality. Improper storage temperatures may have a detrimental impact on the quality of the cheese. We have become aware that some of our State and local distribution partners may confuse the USDA Foods cheese with retail cheese products that come in similar packaging and do not require refrigeration prior to opening. It is important that State and local agencies distributing USDA Foods cheese understand that it is 100% cheese and must be refrigerated throughout storage and distribution. Accordingly, we have developed important storage and distribution guidance for USDA Foods cheese.

USDA Foods Cheese Storage and Distribution:

Storage Temperature: Keep USDA Foods cheese products refrigerated at 41° F or below to avoid possible quality and food safety issues. Warmer temperatures may result in bacteria growth and potential foodborne illness. Follow manufacturer instructions on the package. 

Equipment: When refrigerated transportation is not possible, the equipment below may help to keep the cheese at required temperatures for short time periods:

  • Freezer blankets or insulated blankets;
  • Coolers, insulated boxes, or bags; and
  • Ice packs

Time is Important: Do not keep refrigerated cheese at temperatures above 41° F for more than a total of 2 hours. After 2 hours, harmful bacteria may grow. 

Inform Participants: Think about signage and other messages for participants that will help them know they must refrigerate USDA Foods cheese quickly after they receive it. Provide them with applicable time and temperature information.

Check Your Procedures: Review your distribution procedures to determine how your agency can check on the temperature of foods and maintain refrigerated storage areas in order to implement best practices during distribution.   

Recipient Agencies should contact their State Distributing Agency (SDA), and SDAs should contact their FNS Regional Office with any questions, or contact the USDA Foods Complaint Team.

The Complaint Team is available Monday-Friday, 6:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time. Email or call the USDA Foods Complaint Hotline at 800-446-6991.

Warehouse Wisdom

How to Check Delivery Temperatures for Shell Eggs

Refrigerator-Freezer Thermometer

With increased deliveries of shell eggs to TEFAP sites  from $5.6 million in 2016 to $8.1 million in 2017  USDA would like to remind warehouse staff about checking the temperature of shell egg shipments to ensure the product has been kept at the proper temperature. 

Shell eggs destined for the ultimate consumer must be stored and transported under refrigeration at an ambient temperature of 45 degrees Fahrenheit (7.2 degrees Celsius) or less. The following steps are provided for guidance in checking the ambient temperature inside the transport unit upon arrival or just prior to unloading the shipment:

1. Open the rear door of the transport unit sufficiently to place a stem thermometer inside the transport unit. Caution must be taken not to open the doors on the unit for an extensive period of time as it will allow the refrigerated air to escape, impacting the amount of time required to determine an accurate measurement inside the unit. If the refrigeration unit is not running on the transport unit, opening the doors on the transport unit will prevent obtaining the actual ambient air temperature.

2. Close the door and allow approximately 10 minutes for the stem thermometer to adjust to the environment inside the transport unit. Note that measuring the ambient air temperature with an infrared hand-held thermometer is not acceptable. These hand-held units measure the temperature of a surface, not the refrigerated ambient air temperature.

 3. Open the doors and read the stem thermometer immediately to determine the ambient air temperature inside the transport unit.

Please remember to inspect your delivery – and check the temperature before determining whether to accept it.

Ordering Outlook

National Warehouse Lead Times and Delivery Dates

FNS runs 3 national multi-food warehouses that service CSFP and the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR). Multi-food deliveries contain a variety of food package items in less-than-full-truckload quantities ordered for delivery on dates that have been pre-negotiated. Multi-food requisitions are entered in the Web-Based Supply Chain Management (WBSCM) system starting 30 business days before the delivery date (60 business days for offshore locations) but no later than 7 business days before delivery. When counting days, do not count the date of delivery, weekends, or holidays.

If a delivery location has a negotiated delivery date of Thursday, February 15, for example, the last day to place an order is Monday, February 5. If any changes are needed after this time, notify FNS Regional Office staff, who will then work with the FNS warehouse manager if needed. In this example, the warehouse will pull the order for fulfillment on Thursday, February 8, which is 5 business days before delivery, after which no changes can be made.

If a holiday falls near your delivery date, be sure to take that into consideration and not count it as one of the 7 days before your delivery date. For example: February 19 is Presidents' Day. If you have a delivery scheduled for Friday, February 23, your last day to order before the 7 day cut-off would be Monday, February 12. The warehouse would then pull your order on Thursday, February 15.

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.

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.

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