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Procuring Local Meat, Poultry, Game and Eggs for Child Nutrition Programs

FNS Document #
SP 01,CACFP 01, SFSP 01-2016
Resource type
Policy Memos
Guidance Documents
Resource Materials
PDF Icon Policy Memo- 2015 (339.85 KB)
DATE:November 20, 2023
POLICY MEMO:SP 01-2016, CACFP 01-2016, SFSP 01-2016
SUBJECT:Procuring Local Meat, Poultry, Game, and Eggs for Child Nutrition Programs – REVISED
TO:Regional Directors
Special Nutrition Programs
All Regions
State Directors
Child Nutrition Programs
All States

The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) has received several questions related to buying local meat, poultry, seafood, game, and eggs; this memorandum seeks to clarify the regulatory requirements related to food safety and answer specific questions related to these products with a series of questions and answers included as an attachment. FNS is updating questions six, seven, and eight on page eight (indicated with asterisks) to better reflect opportunities to access domesticated and wild game animals including buffalo as well as other minor technical updates throughout. The responses to these three questions remind child nutrition program (CNP) operators to comply with all applicable federal, state, and local, (including tribal) laws and regulations.

Four agencies within the federal government are responsible for establishing the rules and regulations that govern the sale and use of meat, poultry, seafood, game, and eggs in the CNPs: the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the U.S. Department of Commerce (USDOC) National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Marine Fisheries Service, and the USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS). Together these agencies establish rules and regulations to ensure that all products, served in CNP meals and otherwise, are safe, wholesome, and correctly labeled and packaged.

As such, the FDA Food Code and federal food safety regulations provide the framework which state, local, and tribal authorities use to build their food safety regulatory programs. In turn, state, local, and tribal governments adopt federal regulations and guidelines and often tailor the rules to address specific issues. State, local, and tribal governments enforce these regulations by requiring retail and food establishments, including CNP operators, to have a permit to operate as a food service establishment. CNP operators must meet the conditions of the permit to operate. It is critical that CNP operators, ranchers, farmers, and community stakeholders understand the relationship between federal, state, local, and tribal regulations to ensure the safety of the food they produce, sell, donate, or serve.

Federal Government

An overview of the federal food safety regulations related to products served in CNPs is provided below.

USDA Food and Nutrition Service

FNS administers several programs that provide healthy food to children under the authority of the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act (42 USC 1751 et. seq.) and the Child Nutrition Act of 1966 (42 USC 1771 et. seq.). These programs include the National School Lunch Program, the School Breakfast Program, the Child and Adult Care Food Program, the Summer Food Service Program, the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, and the Special Milk Program, which are collectively known as the child nutrition programs (CNP). As it relates to meat, poultry, game, and eggs, FNS aligns its guidance with the federal food safety agencies identified below.

USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS)

The USDA’s FSIS is the public health regulatory agency responsible for ensuring that the United States’ commercial supply of meat, poultry, and egg products (liquid, frozen and dried) is safe, wholesome, and correctly labeled and packaged. FSIS draws its authority from the Federal Meat Inspection Act of 1906 (FMIA), the Poultry Products Inspection Act of 1957 (PPIA), and the Egg Products Inspection Act of 1970 (EPIA). If a food item falls outside of those statutes FSIS is not authorized to regulate its sale or use. FSIS is authorized to provide voluntary inspection of species not covered in FMIA or PPIA under the USDA Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 (AMA).

DHHS Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

The FDA, part of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), regulates products from animals not covered by FMIA, EPIA, and PPIA, such as game animals, shell eggs, and seafood. This authority is conferred by the Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act). If meat is offered for sale as human food, it is subject to the provisions of the FFDCA, which requires that food must be prepared from sound, wholesome, raw materials, and must be prepared, packed, and held at all times under sanitary conditions.

As mentioned above, the FDA publishes the Food Code, a model, which assists food control jurisdictions at all levels of government by providing a scientifically sound technical and legal basis for regulating the retail and food service segment of the industry (restaurants, grocery stores, and institutions, such as schools, hospitals, and nursing homes). State, local, and tribal regulators use the FDA Food Code as a model to develop or update their own food safety statutes and regulations for retail and foodservice operations and to maintain consistency with national food regulatory policy. States are under no obligation to adopt all provisions in FDA’s model code.

USDOC National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

The NOAA, National Marine Fisheries Service Seafood Inspection Program provides continuous on-site and audit-based grading and certification services for seafood items.

State Governments

States follow federal rules and regulations and, in some cases, tailor programs to meet their needs. Two state-run programs, described below, are operated through agreements with FSIS that allow for state-level inspection of meat, poultry, and game.

State Meat and Poultry Inspection (MPI) Programs

State Meat and Poultry Inspection (MPI) programs are an integral part of the nation's food safety system. States hold cooperative agreements with FSIS in order to operate MPI programs, which must enforce requirements "at least equal to" those imposed under the FMIA and the PPIA. Products produced under state inspection are generally limited to intrastate commerce. MPI products may be shipped between states if a state opts into the Cooperative Interstate Shipment (CIS) program described below.

More than half of the states in the U.S. operate MPI programs. In states without MPI programs, the only option for meat and poultry inspection is USDA inspection. For more information on which states have state Meat and Poultry Inspection (MPI) programs, visit the Food Safety and Inspection Service’s Web site.

The Cooperative Interstate Shipment (CIS) Program

The Cooperative Interstate Shipment (CIS) program promotes the expansion of business opportunities for state Meat and Poultry Inspection (MPI) facilities. The CIS program allows facilities already participating in a state MPI program to operate as federally inspected facilities and ship products in interstate commerce. Products sold from a CIS program bear the federal mark of inspection. For more information on which states participate in the CIS program, visit the Food Safety and Inspection Service’s Web site.

Local Governments

Local governments must abide by state and federal regulations. However, some local health jurisdictions (county health departments, etc.) use state rules and regulations as a guide to develop specific local program rules. This means that food codes and other applicable regulations may vary from locality to locality.

Tribal Nations

FNS has received several questions specifically about products served in CNPs located in tribal communities and have summarized the work of the Indian Health Service (IHS) and FNS as it relates to tribal issues.

DHHS Indian Health Service (IHS)

The IHS is part of the Division of Environmental Health Services (DEHS), within DHHS, which provides direct environmental health services and consultation to American Indian and Alaska Native Tribal governments, including the establishment and management of local Tribal Food Codes. DEHS uses the most recent edition of the FDA Food Code for non-regulatory consultation and evaluation of tribal programs. DEHS also works with tribal councils, who pass local food code rules and encourages their partnership with state and local entities to provide a comprehensive food safety program. Tribal Nations may implement their own food codes to support or supplant state and local food codes.

Food and Nutrition Service and Traditional Indigenous Foods

USDA understands the importance of serving traditional Indigenous foods and encourages Tribal Nations, along with all operators of CNPs, to source locally grown and raised foods. To support these efforts, FNS has a variety of resources to assist CNP operators in determining how traditional Indigenous foods may contribute toward a reimbursable meal online. 

As described in the Service of Traditional Foods in Public Facilities memorandum (SP 42-2015, CACFP 19-2015, SFSP 21-2015), and the Farm Bill Implementation Memo: Donated Traditional Foods and Civil Liability (SP 31-2019, CACFP 14-2019, SFSP 14-2019), Section 4033 of the Agricultural Act of 2014 (Farm Bill) allows for the use of donated traditional Indigenous foods, including wild game, at public and nonprofit facilities that primarily serve Native Americans. As allowed by this provision, wild game may be donated and served in CNPs. Additionally, the Crediting Traditional Indigenous Foods in Child Nutrition Programs (TA 01-2023), clarifies that traditional Indigenous foods may be served in CNPs. The memorandum provides slaughter and inspection requirements for cultivated and wild game animals and examples of how they may contribute towards a reimbursable meal.

The attached questions and answers seek to help CNP operators better understand applicable food safety requirements and aid them in purchasing from local ranchers and producers as much as possible.

State agencies are reminded to distribute this memorandum to program operators immediately. Local educational agencies, school food authorities, and other program operators should direct any questions concerning this guidance to their state agency. State agencies with questions should contact the appropriate FNS regional office.

Tina Namian
School Meals Policy Division
Julie Brewer
Community Food Systems Division
J. Kevin Maskornick
Community Meals Policy Division


Page updated: November 28, 2023