USDA Foods from Farm to Plate Spotlight on Schools

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U.S. Department of Agriculture
USDA Foods from Farm to Plate
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Spotlight on Schools, November 2020

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News & Notes

Nutrition, Allergen, and Ingredient Information for USDA Foods Products

We know how important it is for school districts to have access to the product profile for each food served in the cafeteria in order to plan menus that meet the meal pattern requirements and that accommodate students with allergies.  USDA has been working with our vendors on a solution to provide vendor-specific nutrition, allergen, ingredient, and Kosher certification information to school districts to use when making decisions about USDA Foods and planning menus.  USDA is currently testing a system that collects USDA Foods product information provided by vendors through the Global Data Synchronization Network.  While we don’t currently have a specific timeline for implementation, we hope to make this information available to State agencies and school districts using the FNS website in the next year. USDA worked with three vendors to pilot test the system for entering nutrition, allergen, and ingredient information for USDA Foods.  As a result of the pilot, we were able to make small adjustments to the data entry process and build a template for sharing the information.  We are continuing to work on next steps and will let you know when we have additional updates to share!

USDA Foods Product Information Sheets for Schools

Updated USDA Foods Product Information Sheets for Schools

You may have noticed that the USDA Foods Product Information Sheets have a new look. In addition to the fresh design, all of the information is being reviewed, and updated, so state agencies and school districts have the latest nutrition, allergen, and product information for USDA Foods.

As a reminder, these documents provide a worst-case scenario summary of information across all USDA Foods vendors. USDA Foods Product Information Sheets can be used for menu planning and crediting documentation for an Administrative Review, so please be sure to update your records.

If you have questions about the information, please contact

Grab and Go Options Available Through USDA Foods

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a lot of changes to the way meals are distributed through the National School Lunch Program. Due to the increase in school takeaway meals, we wanted to highlight a number of grab and go options available through USDA Foods.  Many of these products can still be ordered from USDA for April through June delivery, so contact your State agency if you are interested in ordering.

The individually packaged direct delivery foods available are:

  • Raisins
  • Dried cranberries
  • Orange juice (frozen cartons and cups)
  • Fruit cups (frozen apricots, peaches, mixed berries, and strawberries)
  • Applesauce cups
  • Peanut butter
  • Yogurt: vanilla, strawberry, and blueberry (4 ounce cups)
  • String cheese
  • Oat circles cereal bowls

Through the processing program, there are more than 600 other individually wrapped products available across a variety of vendors, including sandwiches, burritos, fruit cups, and cheese sticks. The USDA DoD Fresh program also has a variety of individually wrapped fruits and vegetables, such as apple slices or baby carrots, as well as many options that can be served whole as a simple grab and go item, including oranges and apples.

For more information on individually wrapped foods available through USDA Foods, check out the Foods Available List for School Year 2021 here.

Grab and go foods

Individually wrapped foods such as oat circles cereal bowls, mixed berries cup, and apricot cup are available from USDA Foods as grab and go options.

Policy Corner

Update on the SY 2020-2021 Entitlement Waiver

On June 16, 2020, FNS announced an opt-in Entitlement Waiver to forego the annual reconciliation process in November 2020.  This waiver was published to minimize the impact of school year (SY) 2019-2020 COVID-19 related school closures on State Distributing Agencies’ (SDAs) SY 2020-2021 USDA Foods entitlement.  SDAs wishing to participate in this waiver had to notify FNS by September 15, 2020.  All SDAs elected to participate in this waiver. 

Accordingly, the preliminary SY 2020-2021 entitlement level assigned to SDAs in January 2020, which was based on SY 2018-2019 lunch counts, will be the final entitlement value assigned for SY 2020-2021. Although this is the calculation of what is offered, in certain circumstances there is flexibility for an SFA to receive more or less than the commodity offer value.  For instance, an SFA may receive less USDA Foods if the SDA, in consultation with the SFA, determines that the SFA cannot efficiently utilize the commodity offer value of USDA Foods.  This can also apply to an SFA receiving more USDA Foods than the commodity offer value.  These flexibilities allow SDAs to work with SFAs to evaluate the fluctuating impacts of COVID-19 and determine the best utilization of USDA Foods in their communities and States. 

Nationwide School Meal Flexibilities Continued

On October 9, 2020, USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue announced the continued extension of nationwide flexibilities that allow free school meals for all children throughout the entire 2020-2021 school year.

Program Spotlight

Recent Highlights in the National School Lunch Program

Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) Administrator Pam Miller celebrated World School Milk Day by visiting Lebanon, PA on October 1, 2020.  Administrator Miller toured Brook-Corner Holsteins dairy farm and assisted with the “grab and go” school meal distribution at Lebanon High School. 

USDA FNS Administrator Pam Miller helps pass out school meals at Lebanon High School in Pennsylvania

USDA FNS Administrator Pam Miller helps pass out school meals at Lebanon High School in Pennsylvania, which offers a “grab and go” model for students that are learning online.

October 12-16 was National School Lunch Week, and on National Food Service Workers Day, Brandon Lipps (USDA Deputy Under Secretary for FNCS) and Pam Miller (Administrator of FNS) thanked school food service workers for their dedication in a special video message

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USDA DoD Fresh Vendors Support Local Growers

For 25 years the USDA and the Department of Defense (DoD), Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) have had a successful collaborative partnership that leverages DLA’s contracting services to military bases to also provide weekly deliveries of a variety of nutritious, U.S. grown fresh fruits and vegetables to more than 42,000 schools.

Distributors work year-round with local growers to bring their locally grown produce to foodservice and retail customers. Many of the USDA DoD Fresh contracted vendors participate in a network of produce distributors that implemented Greener Fields Together to support local growers who supply them with produce by providing Good Agricultural Practices training, assistance with food safety audits, and with grants.  The Cultivating Change local farm grant program provides financial support to local growers to implement food safety and sustainability practices and to meet the requirements to sell their products in wholesale markets.

Recently USDA DoD Fresh vendors, Seashore Fruit and Produce (New Jersey) and Premier Produce One (Ohio) nominated two local growers they work with for a Cultivating Change grant. Seashore Fruit & Produce nominated Frecon Farms, located in Boyertown, Pennsylvania.  Frecon Farms used the grant to install fencing to prevent deer from entering the orchard in order to meet food safety requirements.  Premier Produce One nominated Quarry Hill Orchards, located in Berlin Heights, Ohio.  They used their grant to purchase food safety compliant apple harvesting bins to accommodate increased yields from new orchard plantings and meet food safety requirements.

Providing locally grown produce, when seasonally available, is a priority in the USDA DoD Fresh program.  Providing grants to local growers is just one way the USDA DoD Fresh vendors support local growers to expand their business and meet the quality and food safety requirements in order to provide local produce for the USDA DoD Fresh program.  USDA DoD Fresh offers many different types and varieties of U. S. grown produce. The Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Ordering and Receipt System (FFAVORS) usage report provides information about which state(s) supplies the produce.  To provide greater flexibilities during the pandemic, requests to change entitlement allocations for USDA DoD Fresh or to add new sites can be made at any time.  Send requests to

Serving Up USDA Foods Photo Contest Winners

Thank you to everyone who participated in the fourth annual USDA Foods Photo Contest "Serving Up USDA Foods." While this announcement is slightly delayed due to the pandemic leading to so many changes for school meals, we do want to recognize the hard work our school nutrition partners do to incorporate USDA Foods into school meals and highlight the photo contest winners. We received over 250 photos from 38 states featuring creative uses of direct-delivered USDA Foods proteins, fruits, vegetables, grains, and dairy. School districts are doing an amazing job serving up USDA Foods, and it was very difficult to choose a winner for each category.

The 2020 Serving Up USDA Foods Photo Contest Winners included:

  • Gold Meal Award: East Hampton Public Schools (Connecticut)
  • Great Grains Award: Mequon-Thiensville School District (Wisconsin)
  • Protein Power Award: Cranston Public Schools (Rhode Island)
  • Say Cheese Award: East Syracuse Minoa Central School District (New York)
  • Breakfast Award: Washoe County School District (Nevada)

For more information on the winning meals and the USDA Foods featured in each, visit the FNS website.

Gold Meal Award Winner "Savory Street Tacos with fiesta corn salad" from East Hampton Public Schools in Connecticut.

Gold Meal Award Winner "Savory Street Tacos with fiesta corn salad" from East Hampton Public Schools in Connecticut.

Conference Clips


ACDA Virtual Conference Recap

On October 20th and 21st, the American Commodity Distribution Association (ACDA) hosted its 45th annual conference, this time completely virtually. The conference consisted of two general sessions and a total of twenty-four breakout sessions, divided into three different tracks for the participants to choose from: USDA Foods Best Practices and Policy Updates, Menu Solutions and Household Programs, and Procurement and Processing. At the end of each day, participants had the option of joining networking sessions to discuss challenges, best practices, and other pertinent topics. This conference targeted primarily USDA Foods in Schools, TEFAP, and CSFP stakeholders, and provided an opportunity for these stakeholders to keep informed on programmatic updates and processes, an important review considering the many challenges faced this year, the largest being Covid-19 and its resounding impact throughout the country.

While the virtual conference was successfully implemented, next year ACDA hopes to return to in-person delivery, with the 2021 conference set to be in New Orleans, LA, from April 25-28, 2021.

Resource Roundup

School Meals Programs Publication

Team Nutrition has a new publication that provides National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program operators with technical assistance on the amounts of foods needed for multiple day distribution, use of “bulk” foods, best practices, and parent communication.  Check out the new resources here:

For a full list of Team Nutrition COVID-19 Resources, visit the FNS Website. The School Nutrition Association (SNA) also has a dedicated website for COVID-19 and Back to School Resources.


On September 3rd, USDA Foods hosted the webinar COVID-19 Guidance for Managing USDA Foods Inventories in SY 2020-2021 that provided guidance on flexibilities available to manage USDA Foods in Schools during these unprecedented times.  Topics included: information on USDA Foods direct delivered products, USDA Department of Defense (DoD) Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, and the National Processing Program. We covered some actions that can be taken to assist with utilization of USDA Foods inventories and minimize food loss. Check out the webinar recording here

On September 11th, USDA Child Nutrition Programs hosted a webinar discussing the various school meal waivers available for 2020-2021.  Check out the webinar recording here.  In addition, a full list of Child Nutrition COVID-19 Waivers can be found on the FNS website.

Technology Synopsis

FFAVORS Now Shows Delivery Day

With the Release 2.13 in September, vendors can record the usual delivery day(s) for each customer site in Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Order Receipt System (FFAVORS). If entered, customers will see their delivery day at the top of the list of requested delivery dates when placing their order. This information will help them select the appropriate date.

FFAVORS assigned delivery day

A new Delivery Days Report showing the days assigned for their respective customers is also available to vendors as well as state and district account reps. Results can be filtered to include all customers or only those with or without an assigned delivery day. Additional filters are available for contract (vendor only) and district (state only).

FFAVORS assigned delivery days report

Users can always check for important news about FFAVORS in the Announcement box on the home page. To view or download the latest version of the manual, click the Help link at the upper right corner of the screen. For assistance with FFAVORS or additional information, please contact the FFAVORS account representative or email the FFAVORS Help Desk.

System Reminders

  • 12/6/2020 – FFAVORS Release
  • 12/17/2020 – WBSCM Release
  • 2/11/2021 – WBSCM Release

Planned dates for system activities are subject to change.

WBSCM Development to Support USDA Foods Processing for BMI

Web-based Supply Chain Management (WBSCM) is under continuous improvement for maintenance and quarterly enhancements. A summary of recent changes for each release can be found at Help > Training > Release Notes.

Over the past year, new functionality has been developed in WBSCM to support changes to USDA Foods Processing for the Business Management Improvement (BMI) project. The objective is to streamline procurement and fulfillment processes, including leveraging long term contracts and setting delivery schedules using Processors’ up-to-date requirements.

Phase 1 provided FNS with the ability to convert the demand forecast (orders) to a scheduling agreement with Processor plants. Phase 2 deployed a Processor Inventory Dashboard to facilitate management of shipment receipts and inventory allocation to SDAs. There are also two new reports, the Processing Status report and the Processor Request report.

The following graphic provides an overview of the monthly process and the tools available in WBSCM:

WBSCM Processing Overview

At this time, these new tools are available only to the organizations participating in the SY2021 Processing Pilot for domestic orders of bulk potatoes. Feedback from pilot participants will help to identify opportunities to enhance the Processor Inventory Dashboard and reports for future releases.

For assistance with WBSCM or to address questions, please contact the WBSCM Service Desk or call (877) 927-2648. Alternatively, users can also track WBSCM issues and questions online via the WBSCM Service Desk Portal.

How to Stay in the Know with USDA Foods

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

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