USDA Foods from Farm to Plate: Spotlight on Schools, September 2018

Spotlight on Schools

In Memory Of

This summer the Food Distribution family lost two dear colleagues. We would like to take a moment to honor them as we remember their inspiring dedication to school meal programs.

LaNae Potter

LaNae Potter – A Life of Service to Children

On May 22, 2018, LaNae Potter, a program analyst in the USDA Food and Nutrition Service, Food Distribution Division (FDD), Child Nutrition Operations Branch passed away. LaNae made many contributions in FDD during the three short years she worked with us. In addition to processing orders for peanut, grain, and oil products, she was always eager to take on projects that would have long-term impact on our program. For example, LaNae shared data with States on their distribution practices and fees to spark conversation and improvement, and she developed standard operating procedures for State agencies to use when submitting USDA Foods orders. She was eager to help her colleagues and share a friendly word.  

Prior to joining FDD, LaNae spent more than 10 years working in various capacities to improve school nutrition. During the 2000s, she served as the Food Services Director for Garvey and Hacienda La Puente Unified School Districts in California, and received an SNA rising star award in 2007 for her efforts. She also served as the Southern California School Nutrition Association President in 2009. Beginning in 2011, she became the assistant director of procurement for Colorado State University’s dining services and then joined the State of Colorado’s Food Distribution Program in 2013.     

LaNae’s career path shows her true commitment to making sure children had affordable and nutritious meals, and she did so with a “can do” attitude every step of the way. Her courage to keep serving our school customers as she battled illness for years was truly inspirational. LaNae’s contributions to FDD are lasting, and she is missed dearly by all of us.  

Ben Madden  Serving in South Carolina

Our dear friend and colleague Ben Madden passed away on July 13, 2018. Ben was no stranger to the school nutrition world, having worked at several school districts and most recently serving as the South Carolina State Distributing Agency Director. Ben was calm, humble, and treated everyone with respect. Our thoughts are with his family and friends. Read the memorial here.

Photo: Ben Madden (second from the left) with Regional and State colleagues at the FNS Southeast Regional Office (SERO) State Agency Meeting in January 2018. Photo courtesy of Thaisha Tate, FNS SERO.

Ben Madden

Resource Roundup

Three Ways to Go Back to School with USDA Foods

The three tactics listed below will inspire you to shake up your USDA Foods routine.

1) Serve USDA Foods at breakfast!

61.8 percent of districts offer grab-and-go breakfast kiosks

While program operators do not earn entitlement for the School Breakfast Program, you can use USDA Foods at breakfast. According to the School Nutrition Association’s (SNA) School Nutrition Operations Report: The State of School Nutrition 2018, more than half of respondents (54.1%) that offer breakfast say they provide alternative venues for breakfast at school in addition to the cafeteria. Among those, 43.9% say they bring breakfast directly to the classroom at some schools, while 61.8% say they provide grab-and-go kiosks. The Foods Available List has several options perfect for breakfasts on the run like individual pack sizes of peanut butter, dried cranberries, and applesauce, yogurt, and frozen fruit cups.

Image courtesy of Food Service Director Magazine.

Brasa Curried Chicken Rice Bowl

2) Conduct tests with students.

Who knows your customers better than the students themselves! According to the same SNA survey, 74.5% of districts have implemented student taste tests or sampling. Find ways to get input on USDA Foods from your students. Consider preparing one item in a few different ways. For example, Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) makes sure they can get the most out of their entitlement by using USDA Foods products in multiple recipes. MPS uses the USDA Foods chicken strips in four different salads, burrito bowls, tamari chicken and rice bowl, pasta entrées, and the student-approved Brasa Curried Chicken Rice Bowl, developed in partnership with a popular local restaurant.

3) Try something new.

New clothes, new books, new routines why not also try a refresh on your USDA Foods? Maybe it’s not a new product, but a new way of serving an ingredient or perhaps just renaming a menu-standard to catch students’ eyes. For example, if tacos using USDA Foods ground beef and pepper and onion blend are a routine menu item, consider switching the name to Tijuana Tuesdaze or swap taco shells for chips and serve nachos once a month. Remember, small changes can make a big difference!

As the school year picks up, don’t get stuck in the same routine. Challenge yourself to use at least one USDA Foods product in a new way this year. 

New Team Nutrition Resource for Afterschool Programs Now Available

FNS recently released Team Nutrition Cooks! for use in the Child Nutrition programs. Team Nutrition Cooks! is a series of cooking-based nutrition activities for out-of-school and afterschool programs, for children around ages 8 to 12 years old. These activities can spark children’s interest in trying new foods and help empower them with skills for independence. Cooking can also help kids become more interested in making healthy food choices that can help build and support good eating habits throughout their lifetime.

Team Nutrition Cooks! Activity Guide

The resource contains five modules, and each module is centered around a kid-friendly recipe that can be prepared at an afterschool or out-of-school program site. Step-by-step instructions for each module are included in an Activity Guide. Each module has an accompanying Family Handout that can be sent home so that children can continue to practice their cooking skills at home. Family Handouts include the recipe, instructions for how kids and families can cook together, and worksheets and activities to reinforce healthy habits. A Skills Video is also available for each recipe.

All materials can be viewed and downloaded from the Team Nutrition Cooks website. Printed copies of this resource will be available later this year.

Policy Corner

Webinar Recording: "The Processing Rule: A General Overview"

Processing Rule webinar

FNS published a Final Rule on May 1, Revisions and Clarifications in Requirements for the Processing of Donated Foods, which revises and clarifies requirements for the processing of USDA Foods, effective July 2, 2018. This summer, USDA staff conducted a webinar to review highlights and answer questions to help stakeholders better understand the changes to the USDA Foods processing regulations. Click here to view the webinar recording.

Stay tuned for additional resources for implementing the rule in the coming months!

Featured Food: USDA Foods Frozen Mixed Vegetables

USDA Foods Frozen Mixed Vegetables

Orange, yellow, and green, oh my! We’ve heard from States and school districts across the nation about offering more vegetable varieties. We are proud to announce that frozen Mixed Vegetables (item 110871) have been added to the Foods Available List! Over 70 truckloads of orders have already come in to serve this multi-crediting vegetable in school meals this year. This product is a 4-way blend that includes carrots, corn, peas, and green beans and credits as 25 percent red/orange, 25 percent other, and 50 percent starchy vegetable. Mixed vegetables are versatile, easy to prepare, and can be easily adapted to any recipe. Try serving mixed vegetables in a stir-fry, a soup, a chilled salad, or as a side-dish to any entrée. If you are interested in more information about the product, please check out our USDA Foods New Product Preview Sheets. We look forward to hearing your feedback about this product or other items you would like to see at  

News & Notes

FDPIR Direct Certification Update

Direct Certification (DC) efforts between the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR) and school meal programs had another successful year! Here is a snapshot of States incorporating FDPIR participant data into direct certification matching efforts during School Year (SY) 2017-2018. Congratulations to all! 

  • Alaska: The Alaska Department of Education & Early Development completed its first school year of FDPIR-DC matching (SY 17-18). Alaska is processing FDPIR clients from 18 tribal agencies, consolidated by the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium. For SY 17-18, Alaska directly certified 167 students based upon FDPIR participant data.
  • Montana: For SY 17-18 the Montana Office of Public Instruction conducted matching with participant data from the Blackfeet Nation, Crow Tribe (DPHHS), and Gros Ventre & Assiniboine (Fort Belknap). Data matching efforts resulted in 151 direct certifications for SY 17-18. 
  • Nevada: The Nevada Department of Agriculture provides Local Education Agencies (LEAs) with participant data files from 11 Nevada Tribes for local-level matching. Files are produced on a monthly basis. Annually this effort accounts for approximately 150-200 additional direct certifications.
  • North Dakota: The North Dakota Department of Public Instruction has executed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation. Received participant data is provided to appropriate LEAs for local-level matching. 
  • South Dakota: The South Dakota Department of Education - Child Adult Nutrition Services (CANS) initiated contact in the middle of SY 17-18 with all South Dakota Tribes to enter into a data sharing partnership. For SY 17-18 CANS received FDPIR participant data from the Oglala Sioux Tribe which accounted for 508 additional direct certifications, and enabled multiple LEAs to qualify for the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) that would not have otherwise qualified without the FDPIR data. Additionally, three Tribes (Rosebud Sioux Tribe, Crow Creek Sioux Tribe, and Lower Brule Sioux Tribe) have indicated they are willing to share FDPIR data, and CANS will continue to foster these relationships.

For more information on direct certification between FDPIR and school meal programs, contact Joe Templin, Direct Certification Training and Technical Assistance Project Lead, at

    Out & About: Minneapolis Public Schools

    Minneapolis Public Schools produce stand

    On July 25, a USDA staff member had the opportunity to visit Minneapolis Public Schools. During the visit, the group was able to see the Street Eats food truck in action at one of its neighborhood stops, providing free lunch to kids and teens as part of the USDA Summer Food Service Program. The group also had the opportunity to tour the Minneapolis Public Schools Central Kitchen that prepares and packages meal components for schools around Minneapolis, including made-from-scratch sauces, salad dressings, and even mashed potatoes made from Minnesota-grown potatoes. It’s always a great opportunity for USDA staff to see firsthand all the innovative things our local partners are doing. We thank Minneapolis Public Schools for the opportunity to have an inside peek at how they use their USDA Foods to support healthy meals! 

    Minneapolis Public Schools food truck

    Program Spotlight: Connecticut Summer Meals

    State Shares Best Practices for the USDA DoD Fresh in SFSP Pilot 

    By Allison Calhoun-White, RD, Connecticut Food Distribution Program 

    The Connecticut Food Distribution Program is always looking for ways to expand or improve services to our schools and programs. Assisting the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) always presented challenges due to the limited funds available and the short time in which to spend the dollars. When Connecticut heard about the pilot to utilize the USDA Department of Defense (DoD) Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (USDA DoD Fresh) in the SFSP, we decided to extend the opportunity to participate to all our existing National School Lunch Program (NSLP) SFSP sponsors.

    Girl eating watermelon at Windsor Public Schools SFSP site

    Of the approximately 30 qualifying sponsors, 11 agreed to join the pilot program. The main advantage of offering the pilot to existing NSLP SFSP sponsors is that they are familiar with the USDA DoD Fresh program and the vendor, making the transition very smooth. Funding determinations for SFSP sponsors were based on meals served during the previous year, with higher meal counts receiving proportionately more funding. This is similar to how USDA Foods entitlement is allocated. The State Food Distribution Program monitored the weekly spending in the Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Order/Receipt System (FFAVORS) and only needed to remind participants once or twice to place orders. We allowed schools to start ordering on July 1, and by early August, the USDA DoD Fresh dollars were nearly 100% spent.

    Due to the minimum order delivery amount in Connecticut, we realized we needed to frequently monitor spending and move funds around in order to fully utilize all USDA DoD Fresh dollars. As soon as one district fell under the minimum order delivery amount, the State transferred the remaining funds into another district’s account. Communication was a key factor from the beginning in order to provide information, start-up dates, funding availability, etc. As a new State participating in the pilot to use USDA DoD Fresh in the SFSP, we highly recommend and encourage other States that are interested in participating to offer the opportunity to SFSP sites who have access to FFAVORS. This streamlines the process for State agencies, sponsors, and USDA. 

    Overall, it was a wonderful, easy process for everyone involved, and we received positive feedback from our school partners and vendors alike. We would like to thank USDA for offering our State this opportunity and being so easy to work with, and only hope that we will be able to offer this program permanently moving forward to all Connecticut SFSP sponsors.

    SFSP Sponsor Pilot Feedback:

    Heidi E. Karner, RDN, Nutrition Liaison from Windsor Public Schools, said, “Having the opportunity to be a part of the USDA DoD Fresh program has given our summer meals program the ability to serve locally-grown fresh fruits and vegetables that we wouldn't otherwise have been able to serve, including freshly sliced zucchini, yellow summer squash, cucumbers, watermelon, and much more that were grown right here in our own backyard!" 

    Dana Plant, Food Service Director of Windsor Public Schools, said, “We are so grateful to have had the ability to use the USDA DoD Fresh program this summer for our summer meals.”

    Photo Above: A girl enjoys watermelon at a Windsor Public Schools SFSP site.

    Photo Below: Hartford SFSP staff serve students fresh and healthy meals with a smile.

    Hartford SFSP

    Technology Synopsis

    New User Requests for WBSCM and FFAVORS

    Each person who will be accessing the Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Order/Receipt System (FFAVORS) and/or Web-Based Supply Chain Management system (WBSCM) is assigned a unique user profile. Individuals who represent multiple organizations will have a separate user profile for each of these organizations.

    Both applications use eAuthentication (eAuth) to manage login credentials. Only one eAuth account may be linked per user profile within the same application; however, the same eAuth account(s) may be used for FFAVORS and WBSCM.

    Creating an eAuth account will not automatically grant access to WBSCM or FFAVORS. A user profile must be created by administrators within the respective application.

    New users should request access as follows:

    • FFAVORS: Contact your current Department of Defense (DoD) representative to request access. If you do not know your DoD contact(s) or have trouble accessing FFAVORS with your new login ID and password, the FFAVORS Help Desk can assist you. Additional tips can be found in the FFAVORS f.a.q.
    • WBSCM: Contact the User Administrator for your organization (SDA, RA, ITO, etc.) to request access. Additional tips can be found in the WBSCM f.a.q.

    Note: User Administrators can find guidance on creating a new user profile in WBSCM under Help -> Training -> Job Aids -> General Help -> WBSCM User Administration.

    After the profile has been created in FFAVORS or WBSCM, the new user will receive an email with instructions to create, activate, and register their eAuth account. Most errors encountered during registration result from selecting the wrong link in the email message or not entering the Last Name and Email exactly the same way as in FFAVORS/WBSCM.

    Help for Forgotten Login Information

    The service desk teams for WBSCM and FFAVORS cannot recover user login credentials. These are maintained in a separate system called eAuthentication. To recover forgotten information, self-service tools are available from the login screen via the I forgot my User ID | Password links.

    eAuth Login Box

    To recover forgotten User ID(s), click on User ID. After entering your information, you will receive a list of any User ID(s) linked to this email.

    To reset a forgotten Password, click on Password. You will be prompted to enter your User ID and answer the security questions you previously set up for your eAuthentication profile. After confirming your identity, you will be prompted to enter a new password. This action will also unlock your account if you had entered the wrong password too many times. Note: The Change my Password link can be used to update your account only if you know your current password.

    For your convenience, a shortcut to the password reset tool is also provided on the webpages for WBSCM and FFAVORS:

    eAuth Password Links

    If you have forgotten both your password and your security question responses:

    • Users with a LincPass (USDA-issued ID) should contact the eAuthentication Service Desk for assistance at 1-800-457-3642, option 1.
    • Users without a LincPass will need to reestablish access to FFAVORS and/or WBSCM with a new login ID. To update FFAVORS, contact the FFAVORS Help Desk. For WBSCM, contact the user administrator for your organization.

    On the Horizon

    USDA staff will be participating in these upcoming meetings in 2018 and 2019. We look forward to the opportunity to meet you and hope to see you there!

    October 31-November 1: School Nutrition Association (SNA) Fall Industry Boot Camp in Alexandria, Virginia.

    December 3-6: USDA/State Agency Meeting (Child Nutrition Programs) in Arlington, Virginia.

    December 6-7: USDA Foods Training for State Distributing Agencies (USDA Foods in Schools) in Arlington, Virginia.

    January 13-15: SNA School Nutrition Industry Conference in Austin, Texas.

    February 24-26: SNA Legislative Action Conference in Washington, DC.

    May 5-8: American Commodity Distribution Association (ACDA) Annual National Conference in Niagara Falls, New York.

    How to Sign Up for the USDA Foods E-Letter


    1. Click here. Or you can go to the Food Distribution website and click on the red envelope on the row of social media icons on the top right of the page.

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

    3. Check the boxes to select your topic(s) 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 topics. Select any of these topics to receive the general e-letter plus the corresponding program-specific e-letter(s) of your choice:

    *USDA Foods --> receive all "USDA Foods from Farm to Plate" e-letters

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

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

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

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

    4. Visit the subscriber preferences page any time you would like to review, add, or delete subscriptions. Questions? Contact

    5. Share the e-letter and new subscriber link with interested colleagues and friends!