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Food and Nutrition Programs

Food Distribution

What Is the Purpose of the Food Distribution Program?

The United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food Distribution Program is a multi-purpose program designed to improve the nutritional quality of the diets of children and needy adults. In addition, it supports agriculture through price support and surplus removal programs. The Massachusetts Department of Elementary & Secondary Education (DESE) is the statewide distributing agency that orders food from the USDA and arranges for the receipt, storage and distribution to schools, child care centers, elderly programs, soup kitchens, and food pantries.

What Foods Are Available Through USDA Foods?

DESE may select USDA Foods for their schools, child and adult care centers, family day care centers, and summer program sites from a list of more than 200 products. Products include U.S. grown, processed, and packed, high-quality vegetables, fruits, dairy products, whole grains, lean meats, and other protein options. In recent years, USDA has reformulated products in every food category to lower the levels of sodium, sugar, and fat, and to help offer nutrient-dense, kid-friendly meals.

USDA has been increasing the types of foods available. You can learn more about foods available in USDA Foods Schools Product Information Sheets.

The Department of Defense (DoD) Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program allows schools to use USDA Foods entitlement dollars to buy fresh produce. The program is operated by the Defense Logistics Agency at the Department of Defense. Through the Department of Defense Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has been able to offer schools a wider variety of fresh produce than would normally be available through USDA purchases. DoD is procuring locally to the greatest extent possible, consistent with season and quality.

What Is the Value of My Entitlement?

The amount of entitlement dollars you receive depends on the type of program you operate and the number of lunches you serve. This value changes every year based on USDA Food Assistance rate. Program operators or organizations who are interested in participating in Child Nutrition Programs can get more information about the value of a program's entitlement contact the Food Distribution Team.

How Can I Maximize the Benefits of My Entitlement Dollars?

The first step to getting the most value from your USDA Food Entitlement is to understand the ways that you can use these funds. School Food Authorities have three unique spend options available to them: Processing/Diversion, Brown Box and DoD Fresh. Learn more about each of these spend options and ways to effectively manage inventory in

Organizations that operate the Child and Adult Food Care program and Summer Food Service Program should contact the Food Distribution Team for more information as options are unique to each sponsoring organization.

What Is the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP)?

TEFAP is a federally supported program that provides donated USDA foods for distribution to low-income households in need of emergency nutrition assistance. DESE contracts with a statewide network of food banks who distribute the donated USDA foods to food pantries, soup kitchens or other prepared meal sites within their area. Foods include canned, dry, fresh, and frozen products such as fruits and vegetables; eggs, meats, fish, and poultry; pasta, rice, and other grains; canned and dry beans; milk and juice; peanut butter; cereals.

The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources also works with the food banks to provide food assistance through the Massachusetts Emergency Food Assistance Program (MEFAP).

For food assistance contact the food bank in your area:

Last Updated: April 5, 2022

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