Working Together to Nourish the Nation

USDA Foods from Farm to Plate: April 2018

  • Thursday, April 12, 2018 4:39 PM
    Message # 6097006
    Brandice Pelfrey (Administrator)

    Subject: USDA Foods from Farm to Plate: April 2018

    USDA Foods from Farm to Plate

    News & Notes

    BMI Update: Progress on FY2018 Pilots

    Design for five Business Management Improvement (BMI) pilot projects is nearing completion, and teams have begun to prepare for implementation. USDA is focusing efforts on projects where the most immediate and effective impact can be made with existing resources in Fiscal Year (FY) 2018. Members of the interagency teams have been engaged in collaborative workshops and ongoing discussion to define project scope, stakeholder involvement, and determine evaluation metrics for the following pilot projects targeted for implementation this year:

    • Demand Planning/Forecasting
    • Product Lifecycle Management
    • Long Term Contracting
    • FOB Origin Procurement / Transportation
    • Supplier Management

    Additionally, the Electronic Data Interchange pilot has become a technology (rather than BMI) project, exploring the existing capabilities within Web-Based Supply Chain Management (WBSCM) to communicate with external systems used by suppliers and delivery locations.

    A more detailed update on the status of the BMI project and the current pilots will be presented at the American Commodity Distribution Association (ACDA) Annual National Conference in Minneapolis on April 30, 2018.

    Any questions or comments about the BMI may be directed to

    USDA Foods Are Changing: This is Why

    Over the past few years, USDA has improved our system for tracking feedback (a.k.a. complaints) from our program customers. In addition to improving our response time to address issues, we are also doing more to examine trends in the feedback received and use it to make changes to product requirements to improve the quality of the product or the packaging. The food industry is constantly evolving, and USDA is working to ensure our product specifications align with commercial standards. In recent years, we have worked to improve the flavor profile, color, and texture of our spaghetti sauce (pictured); improved the consistency of the shredded mozzarella cheese; and added requirements to ensure colorful labels are used on household-size products, such as canned fruits and vegetables. USDA also improved the packaging requirement in the specification for individual portions of peanut butter to require an easy open feature when several States reported that students were having difficulty opening the packages. All of these issues were identified and reported to USDA through our partners on the ground. We are continuing to work on additional product improvements that we are excited to unveil in the coming months! As always, if you have feedback about a product or ideas for how USDA Foods can improve, please send us an email at     

    Blurbs from Blogs

    USDA Foods Partnerships Celebrate American Agriculture

    What do apples, beef and cheese have in common? These ABCs are all favorites with children, and they are all a part of the USDA Foods program thanks to collaborative partnerships between the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and American farmers and businesses.

    In celebration of National Agriculture Day, we are sharing one way that the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) provides high-quality, nutritious products to the Child Nutrition Programs through USDA Foods.

    USDA-purchased foods have been finding their way to children’s lunch trays for more than 70 years. USDA has made great strides in this program over the years by increasing the variety and nutritional quality of the offerings to better meet the needs of schools districts across the country. “Buy American” is a guiding tenet of school meal programs, and USDA Foods inherently support this requirement.

    Read the rest of this article on the USDA Blog!

    Conference Clips

    Conference season is in full swing, offering many opportunities for USDA to provide technical assistance and interact with program stakeholders. Read on for highlights of upcoming or recent events!

    American Commodity Distribution Association (ACDA) Conference Preview

    Later this month, USDA will be sending staff to the ACDA Conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to provide sessions, share best practices, and interact with stakeholders from many of our Food Distribution Programs. USDA looks forward to this conference every year as we have many opportunities to engage with our stakeholders through the USDA General Session, the State Agency Meeting, the Recipient Agency (RA) Breakfast, and our many breakout sessions. This year, USDA will be presenters or panelists in 20 different breakout sessions including Best Practices for a Demand Driven Program, Incorporating USDA Foods Into Menus, Household Highlights, the Interactive Food Buying Guide, and Behind the Scenes Look at the USDA Purchasing Process. We hope to see many of you there!

    USDA Foods on Display at the National Anti-Hunger Policy Conference

    On February 26, USDA provided updates on the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) and The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) at the annual National Anti-Hunger Policy Conference in Washington, DC, co-sponsored by Feeding America and the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC). USDA also hosted a display table sharing the new Foods Available Lists for household programs and showcasing a selection of the fresh, dried, and canned fruit and vegetable options, alongside the bakery mix.

    USDA Foods display at the Anti-Hunger Policy Conference

    School Nutrition Association (SNA) Legislative Action Conference Recap

    On March 5, USDA presented to the attendees at the School Nutrition Association Legislative Action Conference in Washington, DC. Laura Castro, Director of the Food Distribution Division, provided an update on what’s new in USDA Foods, including highlighting the new products for School Year 2018-2019, sharing information about the status of the Business Management Improvement (BMI) process, and providing updates on entitlement usage, status of complaints, and our pilot programs. We always enjoy interacting with our stakeholders and look forward to our next opportunity to share the exciting initiatives we are working on and have dialogue with the people implementing our programs on the ground. As always, if you have questions about the USDA Foods program, please reach out to us at      

    Out & About

    USDA staff from the National and Regional Offices work together to support State and local agencies and Indian Tribal Organizations (ITOs) in administering USDA Foods programs. In March, we had the opportunity to attend a State-wide meeting for USDA Foods in Schools and two Regional meetings for the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR). The summaries below showcase the value of these partnerships and coming together to share ideas about program management and nutrition education.

    USDA and Ohio Department of Education Partner to Offer USDA Foods Taste Testing

    USDA staff from Alexandria, Virginia, and Chicago, Illinois, collaborated with the Ohio Department of Education’s (ODE) Office of Child Nutrition to feature select USDA Foods during their Training and Vendor Show on March 5, just outside Columbus. USDA Foods sampled included:

    • individual portion peanut butter, which credits as 1 meat/meat alternate
    • individual portions of dried cranberries, which credit as 1 fruit serving
    • dried fruit mix, including apples, cranberries, cherries, and raisins

    USDA staff also presented an overview of USDA Foods, titled “Taking a Fresh Look at USDA Foods” with reminders of the financial benefit, quality, and versatility of USDA Foods and tips on incorporating USDA Foods into menus.

    Thanks to Andrea Denning, Brian Davis, and Christine Farmer from ODE for coordinating the USDA Foods content at their show!

    Interested in having a USDA Foods display at your state conference? USDA Foods banner designs are available for State Distributing Agencies to use! Check out the USDA Foods Banner Kit to learn more!

    USDA Foods booth at Ohio meeting

    Isaac Taylor, Kathleen Staley, and Vista Fletcher of USDA offer samples of USDA Foods at the Ohio Training.

    Midwest Region FDPIR Nutrition Advisory Committee Meeting

    The Midwest Region FDPIR Nutrition Advisory Committee met March 13-14 in Chicago, Illinois. The group reviewed and brainstormed Food Distribution Program Nutrition Education (FDPNE) Grant activities, including plans for the 2019 FDPIR Calendar and Nutrition Guide, and ways to teach FDPIR participants how to create healthy meals. Topics presented at the meeting included food package updates, best practices in farm to school, and tools to conduct a nutrition analysis of a recipe. The Nutrition Advisory Committee looks forward to its next meeting in August in conjunction with the annual Midwest FDPIR Conference.

    Western Region FDPIR Conference and Nutrition Education Symposium

    The Western Association of Food Distribution Programs on Indian Reservations (WAFDPIR) Annual Regional Conference was held in Rohnert Park, California, March 19-21. Topics included food package improvements and funding opportunities, training on financial management and civil rights, and best practices in certification and food ordering. The WAFDPIR Conference ITO directors also voted on the sites to host upcoming WAFDPIR Conferences, and the 2019 conference is planned for Tacoma, Washington.

    The Western Region 2018 FDPIR Nutrition Education Symposium was held March 21-22, immediately following the WAFDPIR Annual Regional Conference. Sherwood Valley Band of Pomo Indians led the symposium as an activity for their Food Distribution Program Nutrition Education Grant and planned the symposium in coordination with the Western Regional FDPIR Nutrition Education Advisory Group. The meeting convened FDPIR directors and staff to discuss common issues, challenges, and best practices related to administering FDPIR nutrition education. Topics included providing nutrition education through community collaboration, enhancing nutrition education through digital storytelling, promoting healthy choices in food distribution settings, conducting food demonstrations using USDA Foods and traditional foods, and garden-based nutrition education.

    Technology Synopsis

    The February monthly release for Web-Based Supply Chain Management (WBSCM) included changes to the My profile screen. All WBSCM users are now required to maintain an email address for general communication, and recall-related communication preferences now appear in a different section, when applicable. All users, regardless of their role, should review their user profile to ensure contact information is correct.

    In the Communication section, which is available to all users, the “Email address” method is now required for general WBSCM notifications such as those related to Order Change, Catalog, Entitlement, or Shipment. Additional communication methods are optional. A new work instruction is available for reference at Help->Training->Work Instructions->External->Fulfillment->Domestic->Maintain User Profile.

    Users who are also recall contacts will see an additional section called Recall Communication, where they can maintain up to three contact methods for recall-related notifications. A minimum of two contact methods is required; if no confirmation is received before the response time expires, the notification will automatically be sent to the next preferred method. An updated work instruction is available for reference at Help->Training->Work Instructions->External->Fulfillment->Domestic->Maintain Recall Notification Preferences.

    WBSCM Maintain User Profile Screenshot

    Contact the WBSCM Service Desk at or call 877-WBSCM-4U or 877-927-2648 with any questions.

    On the Horizon

    USDA staff will be participating in these upcoming meetings in 2018. We look forward to the opportunity to meet you and hope to see you there!

    April 29 - May 2: American Commodity Distribution Association (ACDA) Annual National Conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

    May 20-23: National Commodity Supplemental Food Program Association (NCSFPA) Annual Conference in Fort Myers, Florida.

    June 11-15: National Association of Food Distribution Programs on Indian Reservations (NAFDPIR) Annual Conference in Reno, Nevada.

    July 9-12: School Nutrition Association (SNA) Annual National Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada.

    How to Sign Up for the USDA Foods E-Letter

    1. Click here. Or you can go to the Food Distribution website and click on the red envelope on the row of social media icons on the top right of the page.

    2. Enter your email address and click "Submit."

    3. Check the boxes to select your topic(s) of interest. For these e-letters, scroll down to the Food Distribution category and click the plus sign to the left of the check box to expand the list and view all the topics. Select any of these topics to receive the general e-letter plus the corresponding program-specific e-letter(s) of your choice:

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

    *Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) --> receive "Household Highlights"

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

    *Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR) --> receive "FDPIR Connection"

    *Schools/Child Nutrition Commodity Programs --> receive "Spotlight on Schools"

    4. Visit the subscriber preferences page any time you would like to review, add, or delete subscriptions. Questions? Contact

    5. Share the e-letter and new subscriber link with interested colleagues and friends!

    Learn more at or contact us at

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