USDA Foods from Farm to Plate: Spotlight on Schools, August 2021

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USDA Foods from Farm to Plate
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Spotlight on Schools, August 2021

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News & Notes

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Stronger with USDA Foods – 5 Ways USDA Foods Offers the Most Bang for Your Buck

USDA Foods in Schools support domestic nutrition programs and American agricultural producers through purchases of domestic agricultural products for use in schools and institutions. Nutritious USDA-purchased food is provided to the National School Lunch Program, the Child and Adult Care Food Program, and the Summer Food Service Program. Using USDA Foods in child nutrition programs provides many benefits, and here are five ways USDA Foods offers the most bang for your buck:

  1. By using USDA Foods, you leverage USDA's purchasing power. USDA purchases domestic product for the entire nation – that’s over 1 billion pounds of food each year. That typically allows us to purchase the same product that you would purchase commercially, at a reduced price.
  2. USDA Foods products are 100% domestic - meaning they are grown, processed, and packaged completely in the United States. By using USDA Foods products, you not only guarantee that you will meet Buy American requirements, but you also get products at competitive prices.
  3. USDA Foods direct delivered products are minimally seasoned and processed, so they can act as versatile ingredients that can be incorporated into a variety of menu applications to meet your needs as you continue to work through modified menus and adapted service models.
  4. USDA Foods direct delivered products are formulated to have lower levels of sodium, sugar, and fat compared to their commercial counterparts. This allows school district to easily meet meal pattern requirements and serve nutritious meals to students.
  5. USDA Foods can be the base to build back better school meals that students enjoy! Use brown rice or whole grain spaghetti to create flavorful rice or noodle bowls. Top high-protein yogurt with frozen strawberries and blueberries to make a parfait or sprinkle pepper jack cheese in a whole wheat tortilla to make a spicy quesadilla.

USDA Foods are nutritious, reasonably priced, 100% domestic products that give States and school districts countless possibilities to create school meals that offer the most bang for their buck. Think outside the “brown-box” with USDA Foods – the options are endless!

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USDA Foods in Schools Webinar Recap

On July 1, FNS participated in the Institute for Child Nutrition’s webinar: Menu Strategies for Special Diets and Allergens. During the webinar, FNS provided details about the upcoming GS1 GDSN initiative that will allow States and school districts to access vendor-specific nutrition, allergen, and ingredient information for USDA Foods in Schools. The webinar also featured the Director of National Programs at Food Allergy Research Education (FARE) and Angela Gomez, a nutritionist with the Laveen School District in Arizona, who discussed best practices for developing special diets. Register here to watch a full recording of the webinar today!

On August 5, FNS hosted a webinar: Everything You Need to Know About GS1 GDSN! Accessing Nutrition, Allergen, and Ingredient Information for USDA Foods in Schools. During the webinar, FNS provided information on how States and school district will soon be able to access vendor-specific nutrition, allergen, and ingredient information for USDA Foods in Schools. FNS also provided details on where this information will be located and the timeline for implementation. Listen to the webinar today to learn more about this initiative!

Policy Corner

USDA Seamless Summer Option

Using USDA Foods in the Seamless Summer Option

In order to continue to serve meals safely while managing the impacts of COVID–19, many school food authorities (SFAs) have utilized the Child Nutrition waivers allowing States to continue to operate the Seamless Summer Option (SSO) through school year 2021-2022. These SSO meals count towards USDA Foods entitlement and SFAs operating SSO may use USDA Foods, including USDA DoD Fresh fruits and vegetables, for meals served under SSO. Using USDA Foods and DoD Fresh products in SSO helps SFAs provide nutritious meals with an emphasis on fruits and vegetables, and appropriate calorie levels. Contact your State Agency if you need more information about using SSO this year.

School Year 2022 Per Meal Rate

On July 29, 2021, FNS published the notice  Food Distribution Program: Value of Donated Foods From July 1, 2021 Through June 30, 2022 in the federal register. 

This notice announces the national average of donated foods, or where applicable, cash in lieu of donated foods, to be provided in school year (SY) 2022 (July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022) for each lunch served by schools participating in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), and for each lunch and supper served by institutions participating in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP).

The SY 2022 published per meal rate is 26.0 cents, and the effective NSLP SY 2022 rate with the 12% adjustment is 39.75 cents, which provides a significant amount of financial support to school districts. This information was shared with State agencies via email on July 29th. The notice and email can also be found on the USDA Foods in Schools PartnerWeb webpage.

FD-40 Inventory Draw Down in USDA Foods Processing (Revised) Memorandum

On July 16, 2021, FNS released the memorandum FD-40 Inventory Draw Down in USDA Foods Processing (Revised).  This memorandum provides clarification on the value pass through methods available under 7 CFR 250.36 and on the timing of processor inventory reductions (also referred to as draw down) of USDA Foods under each system.  This revision replaces the previous FD-40, dated January 12, 2005.

There are four value pass through systems permitted under current regulations.  These methods are described at 7 CFR 250.36.  Per 7 CFR 250.36(f), an alternative value pass through method may also be used with prior approval from FNS and the State Distributing Agency (SDA).  An approved value pass through system must be used in order to track the value of the USDA Foods contained in or needed to produce processed end products and ensure that each Recipient Agency (RA) receives the full value of the USDA Foods it chooses to divert to processors. 

The clarifications in this memorandum may not be reflected in all current agreements and contracts. Accordingly, although FNS is allowing flexibility on this requirement for contracts already in place for school year 2021-2022, the expectation is that at the earliest opportunity and no later than school year 2022-2023, all impacted SDA or RAs will have compliant competitive procurement processes and contracts in place to operate the USDA Foods Processing Program.

Entitlement Waiver Reporting Requirements

On May 26, 2021, FDD shared the reporting requirements for the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) Opt-In Waiver for School Year (SY) 2020-2021 National School Lunch Program USDA Foods Entitlement Calculations waiver (SY 2020-2021 Entitlement Waiver) via email.  As required by section 2202(d) of the FFCRA, each State participating in the SY 2020-2021 Entitlement Waiver must report on how the waiver was used and improved services provided to children no more than one year after the date the waiver was implemented.  All State Distributing Agencies opted to participate in this waiver and are required to submit a short report to by Friday September 10, 2021.

Resource Roundup

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Sodium in USDA Foods Products

USDA Foods can be a great resource for school districts to help lower the sodium content of school meals. USDA has been working for over 10 years to reduce sodium levels in direct delivered USDA Foods such as canned vegetables and beans, cheese, frozen meat and poultry products, deli turkey and ham products, fish, and whole-grain rich items. USDA Foods direct delivered products are minimally seasoned and processed to allow school districts to customize their USDA Foods to meet the diverse menu needs and flavor profiles of their students. They provide schools with many no salt added, and low or reduced sodium options to help build appealing menus in-line with meal pattern requirements.  

For USDA Foods direct delivered products, we set nutrition standards in the specifications and continue to work with industry to identify opportunities for further sodium reduction.  We have evaluated and reduced sodium where possible across many of our meat and meat alternate options, including chicken products, pre-cooked beef products, deli turkey and ham products, and cheese. There are also many no salt added meat and meat alternates available, including USDA Foods pork leg roast, raw ground beef, 100% beef patties, liquid whole eggs, and raw cut-up chicken. For vegetables and beans, we offer only low-sodium or no salt added products, which are clearly labeled and easily identified as “low sodium” or “no salt added” in the product descriptions on the USDA Foods Available List

As school districts plan future menus, we hope you make use of the direct delivered products available through USDA Foods to help lower the sodium content of your school meals. USDA remains committed to continuing to work with industry to reduce sodium in these options whenever possible.

USDA Child Nutrition Programs Guidance Memos

To prepare for the new school year, the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) released Questions and Answers for Child Nutrition Program Operations in School Year 2021-2022 and Consolidated Q&As on Operation of CN Programs, updated for School Year 21-22. These memos are intended to provide clarification to State agencies and program operators about Child Nutrition Programs, including the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), School Breakfast Program (SBP), NSLP Seamless Summer Option (SSO), and Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), during school year 2021-2022.  Please contact your State agency or FNS Regional Office with any questions.

The Child Tax Credit: Major Tax Relief for Nearly All Working Families

The Child Tax Credit provides automatic monthly payments for nearly all working families.

  • All working families will get the full credit if they make up to $150,000 for a couple or $112,500 for a family with a single parent (also called head of household).
  • The Child Tax Credit has been expanded to $3,000 per child 6-17 years old and $3,600 per child under 6.
  • Roughly 39 million households – covering 65 million children (nearly 90% of children in the United States) – will automatically receive the new child tax credit.
  • Starting on July 15th and through the rest of the calendar year, payments will be monthly (via direct deposit for 80% of families and through the mail for the others) – at $250 per child between 6-17 or $300 per child under 6.
  • Low-income families with children are eligible for this crucial tax relief – including those who have not made enough money to be required to file taxes. If a couple makes under $24,800, a head of household makes under $18,650, or a single filer makes under $12,400, and they have not filed their taxes, there is a simple, easy tool to sign up for the Child Tax Credit. Learn more at
The Child Tax Credit

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Federal Communication Commission’s Emergency Broadband Benefit

On May 12, 2021, the U.S. Department of Education released information for school districts regarding the Federal Communication Commission’s Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB). The EBB is a new, temporary Federal program to help eligible families pay for internet service during the pandemic. Households with a child who was approved to receive free or reduced price meals under the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) or the School Breakfast Program (SBP) during the 2019-2020 or 2020-2021 school year, including children who attend schools participating in the Community Eligibility Provision, are eligible for the EBB Program. More information can be found at the Department of Education’s EBB website

An introductory letter and “Frequently Asked Questions” (FAQ) document will assist schools in learning about the program and includes strategies for reaching out to the school community about the EBB. In addition, there is an “Outreach Toolkit” with sample templates for schools and school districts.

The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) appreciates the exceptional work of State agencies and local program operators to support families during this challenging time. State agencies are reminded to distribute this memorandum to program operators immediately. Program operators should direct any questions concerning this guidance to their State agency. State agencies with questions should contact the appropriate FNS Regional office.

Conference Clips

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School Nutrition Association (SNA) Annual National Conference (ANC) Recap

The SNA ANC was held virtually during the week of July 12, 2021. USDA staff provided USDA Foods updates and reminders on a variety of topics such as entitlement, ordering timelines, accessing nutrition information for USDA Foods, managing inventory of both USDA Foods direct delivered and USDA Foods pounds for processing, and USDA DoD Fresh. Thanks to Phil Truesdale, Food Distribution Program Administrator from South Carolina Department of Education, who co-presented with us and shared useful information about his team’s efforts during the last year and a half to help school districts work existing inventory into their adapted school menus. If you missed this conference, feel free to email us your questions at

Technology Synopsis

WBSCM Resources

WBSCM is under continuous improvement through monthly development activities, and help resources are regularly updated to reflect the latest system changes and recommended processes. Available resource types include work instructions, job aids, simulations, course materials, and release notes.

To access the document library from WBSCM, navigate to Help Training; then drill down through the categories, user groups, and functional areas or topics. These resources can also be accessed via on-screen help while performing most WBSCM transactions by clicking the Options button and selecting Help.

WBSCM on-screen help

For questions about WBSCM, please contact the WBSCM Service Desk or call (877) 927-2648.

New Report Option and Warning Message in FFAVORS

The latest release for the Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Order Receipt System (FFAVORS) was implemented on July 10, 2021. Recent changes include:

  • When placing an order for a requested delivery day (RDD) that is not their assigned delivery day, customers will now receive a warning message.
  • The Usage report now has a third option, Summary – by RDD, which summarizes orders by requested delivery date and includes the order date and delivery date on the report.

Are you working with the latest version of the manual? The manuals are updated with each release, as applicable. To get the latest copy, click on the Help link in the upper right part of the screen when logged in to FFAVORS.

System Reminders

  • 8/26/2021 – WBSCM Maintenance Release 2021R4.2.08
  • 9/23/2021 – WBSCM Enhancement/Maintenance Release 2021R4.3.09
  • 10/3/2021 – FFAVORS 3.3 Release
  • 10/28/2021 – WBSCM Maintenance Release 2021R4.3.10

Planned dates for system activities are subject to change.

How to Stay in the Know with USDA Foods

1. Click here to review or modify your subscription preferences. 

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

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

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*USDA Foods in Schools --> receive "Spotlight on Schools"

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