USDA's Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) administers Food Distribution Programs that provide food and nutrition assistance to eligible individuals, families, and institutions participating in the following:
FNS works closely with two other USDA agencies to obtain the USDA foods purchased and distributed to these outlets. These include the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) and the Farm Service Agency (FSA) Commodity Operations Office.
- AMS purchases perishable products such as meat, poultry, fish, fruit, vegetables, egg products, dry beans, and tree nuts for distribution in eligible outlets participating in Food Distribution Programs. These products (also referred to as Group A foods) are purchased through competitive bids or negotiated contracts.
- USDA's purchase programs also assist farmers, USDA foods producers, and processors by helping to maintain stable commodity prices. They enforce such Federal Laws as the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act and the Federal Seed Act.
- The FSA Commodity Operations Office purchases basic nonperishable Group B-type USDA foods such as dairy products, cereals, grains, peanut products, nonfat dry milk and vegetable oils for eligible outlets participating in Food Distribution Programs. In addition to handling the distribution of USDA foods, this Office is also responsible for the acquisition, procurement, and storage of USDA foods, as well as management of the U.S. Warehouse Act.
A major responsibility of these three USDA partner-agencies is to provide nutritious foods to our nation's children and needy adults while at the same time strengthening American agriculture.
USDA purchases foods to remove surpluses from the marketplace and delivers them through the food distribution programs to State agencies. These agencies, in turn, provide them to schools and other outlets.