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Frequently Asked Questions

Food Distribution

1. How does USDA support meal service in Child Nutrition Programs?
The USDA's Child Nutrition Commodity Programs support American agricultural producers by providing cash reimbursements for meals served in schools, but also by providing nutritious, USDA-purchased food to the National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Programs, Child and Adult Care Food Program, and the Summer Food Service Program.

Donated commodities must be of domestic origin, and over 60 percent of the foods purchased for the Child Nutrition Programs must be determined by the Department to be in surplus at the time of purchase.

2. What type of commodity support does USDA give the school lunch program?
In school year 2002, schools will receive commodity foods, called "entitlement" foods, at a value of 15.50 cents for each lunch served. Schools can also get "bonus" commodities as they are available through USDA’s price support and surplus removal programs. USDA does not provide commodity foods through the School Breakfast Program.The Food Distribution Division of USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) coordinates the distribution of commodities to more than 94,000 public and private nonprofit schools that provide meals to students. 

While schools will receive 15.50 cents worth of commodity foods per meal for school year 2002, the entitlement amount varies from year to year based on an annual adjustment to reflect changes in the Price Index of Foods Used in Schools and Institutions. Benefits delivered in past years are listed below.

3. What type of commodity support does USDA give to other Child Nutrition Programs?
Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP):  FNS’s Food Distribution Division distributes commodities to ensure that children and adults in approved day care centers receive nutritious meals and snacks.

Institutions have the option of receiving cash in lieu of commodities for the CACFP, and most now do so. Less than 20 percent of child care centers now request commodities. The level of assistance for lunches and suppers served by CACFP is the same as the rate for school lunches – 15.50 cents per meal.  

Summer Food Service Program:  FNS distributes commodities to SFSP sites serving needy children during summer vacations from school. These sites include schools, colleges and universities participating in the National Youth Sports Program, nonprofit summer camps for migrant children, and centers for homeless children. For meals prepared on-site, providers receive 1.5 cents per meal in commodity entitlement.

4. What types of food are available to states for Child Nutrition Programs?
States select a wide variety of entitlement foods for their schools, child and adult care centers, family day care centers, and SFSP sites from a list of more than 100 different kinds of products. Foods Available in school year 2003 for the Child Nutrition Programs include fruits and vegetables; meats; cheese or dry and canned beans; fruit juices; vegetable shortening and vegetable oils; peanut products; rice, cheese, pasta product, flour and other grain products.

5. How are bonus commodities distributed to Child Nutrition Programs?
Bonus foods are considered those over and above entitlement foods. They are offered periodically, but only as they become available through agricultural surpluses. They are then offered to States on a fair-share basis, and do not count against a State’s regular entitlement dollars. The type and quantity of bonus commodities distributed by USDA in a given year is dictated by agricultural surpluses and market conditions. Bonus products donated in previous years include:

  • Applesauce and Slices
  • Beef Roasts
  • Dried Fruit Products
  • Fresh Pears
  • Frozen Apricots
  • Nonfat Dry Milk
  • Orange Juice
  • Pork Products
  • Salmon
  • Turkey



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