About USDA Foods

USDA Foods helps schools provide healthy meals to more than 31 million school children who participate in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). For many of these children, the food they receive in school is their primary source of nutrition. Foods from the program make up approximately 15 to 20 percent of the food served with each school lunch. They include a variety of healthy food choices, including fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, poultry, dairy and grains – more than 180 nutrition fresh, frozen, packaged, canned, dried and bulk items in total. All foods distributed by USDA Foods meet rigorous food safety standards set by Federal regulatory agencies and USDA’s two purchasing agencies – the Agricultural Marketing Service and the Farm Service Agency.

Foods Available

USDA Foods offerings reflect the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and now include more fruits, vegetables, whole-grain and foods lower in sugar, salt and fat than ever before. Whole grain options include brown rice, rolled oats, whole-grain dry kernel corn, whole-wheat flour and whole-grain pancakes, pastas and tortillas. Sodium has been reduced across the board, and low-fat meats and lean poultry products are available to schools.

See the full list of foods currently available.

Creative Uses for USDA Foods

Many schools have eliminated fried foods and have opted to convert USDA Foods into lower-fat, lower-sodium menu items that children still find tasty. For example, schools can process USDA bulk chicken into un-breaded, roasted pieces, use brown rice in stir-frys or create roll-ups with whole-grain tortillas.

What Can You Do?

Promote the nutritional benefits of school meals and the healthy food available through USDA Foods: 1) Plan events such as taste tests at assemblies or health fairs; 2) Include messages in school newsletters and websites, or on the back of lunch menus; 3) Teach students about the importance of nutrition using USDA Foods; and 4) Partner with teachers in your school to develop nutrition education lesson plans.