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USDA makes $2B boost for food banks, school meals

School Nutrition Association Fat Free Chocolate Milk School lunch.jpg
Assistance to address supply chain challenges and increasing food costs.

USDA will provide close to $2 billion in additional funding to food banks and school meal programs for purchasing American-grown foods. The additional support will help these organizations endure supply chain challenges and elevated food costs as they continue to fulfill their mission of providing nutritious foods to kids and families in need.

The funds, provided through USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation, or CCC, will be used in three ways:

  • Nearly $1 billion to purchase food for emergency food providers like food banks
  • Nearly $500 million to expand the Local Food Purchase Assistance, or LFPA, cooperative agreement program, through which 49 states, 33 tribes, and four territories are already working to purchase local foods for their emergency food systems; and
  • Nearly $500 million for schools across the country to purchase food for their lunch and breakfast programs, bringing the total CCC investment in school food since December 2021 to close to $2.5 billion, benefiting the roughly 30 million students who participate in school lunch and 15 million who participate in school breakfast each day.

USDA says the investment is part of the department’s broader commitment to strengthening the supply chain and making nutritious food more accessible for families.

“Food banks and schools are the backbone of our nutrition safety net, serving tens of millions of children and families,” says Stacy Dean, deputy undersecretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services. “The Biden administration understands that supply chain disruptions and high food costs have created uncertainties for these crucial partners, and we are committed to equipping them with the resources they need to keep communities fed, strong, and healthy.”

“These programs directly connect American producers with food banks and schools, strengthening our rural economies while helping those most in need,” adds Undersecretary of Marketing and Regulatory Programs, Jenny Lester Moffitt. “As part of the Biden administration’s commitment to transforming our nation’s food system, USDA is dedicated to fostering partnerships between producers and food assistance programs. Working together, farmers, food banks, and schools, can improve our nation’s food and nutrition security.”

USDA will use $943 million to procure USDA Foods for use by emergency feeding organizations facing increased need. USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service and Food and Nutrition Service will work jointly to identify products most likely to be available for purchase, and offer those products based on a formula to The Emergency Food Assistance Program, or TEFAP, State agencies for further distribution to local agencies, primarily food banks. USDA will open orders in Fiscal Year 2023, with deliveries occurring on an ongoing basis throughout Fiscal Years 2023 and 2024.

A percentage of the $943 million will support incidental costs incurred by local agencies for the storage and transportation of the USDA Foods.

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service and its Commodity Procurement Program annually buy more than $3 billion of domestically produced and processed meat, poultry, fruit, vegetables, dairy, grains and oilseed. These purchases of wholesome, high-quality products, collectively called USDA Foods, support American agriculture by encouraging the consumption of domestic foods and provide safe, nutritious food for a variety of federal, state and international nutrition assistance programs, USDA says. They are delivered to schools, food banks and households in communities across the country and are a vital component of our nation’s food safety net.

School Nutrition Association President Lori Adkins says, “SNA is extremely grateful to USDA for their continued work to support school meal programs contending with inflationary pressures, supply chain disruptions and the loss of pandemic waivers providing free meals for all students.”

Local food purchase assistance

LFPA supports states, territories and tribes to purchase food from historically underserved producers as well as local and regional producers to support emergency food assistance efforts.

An allocation of $471.5 million will be used for cooperative agreements with states, tribes, and territories to purchase locally available food grown within each state or within 400 miles of the delivery destination that will be distributed to meet the unique local needs of each community through emergency nutrition programs, including food banks, schools and organizations that reach underserved communities.

Supply Chain Assistance funds boosted $500 million

An investment of another $471.5 million will be used for the third round of Supply Chain Assistance funds provided to states to support the purchase of American-grown foods for their meal programs. Supply Chain Assistance funding can be used by school districts to purchase unprocessed and minimally processed domestic food such as fresh fruit, milk, cheese, frozen vegetables and ground meat. Each state will allocate the funds to schools based on student enrollment, with a minimum amount per district to ensure that small schools are not left behind.

This assistance builds on the two rounds of Supply Chain Assistance funds that totaled nearly $2 billion that USDA previously allocated in December 2021 and June 2022. These funds deliver direct relief from ongoing supply chain issues and improve the quality and consistency of school meals for children in communities experiencing disruptions, making it easier for schools to operate successful meal programs.

Michael Dykes, D.V.M., president and CEO of the International Dairy Foods Association, says the additional $500 million in funding for the Supply Chain Assistance program will bring the program total to $2.5 billion—a significant boost for school procurement for domestic, unprocessed foods, which includes nutritious milk, cheese, yogurt, and other dairy products. “This funding will help ensure the professionals working to serve our kids breakfast and lunch in schools can continue to serve nutritious dairy foods that contribute to the growth, development, healthy immune function, and overall wellness of our children,” he says.

“U.S. dairy remains committed to playing a proactive role in enhancing access to nutritious foods and reducing hunger and food insecurity,” Dykes adds. “We are grateful to USDA for its continued support to schools and food banks amid supply chain disruptions.”

TAGS: Regulatory
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