Under authority of the Freedom of Information Act (5 USC § 5 52 as amended) and USDA Regulations (7 CFR Part 1) the public can request access to FNS records. The FOIA requires the agency to release records to the public unless one or more of the nine exemptions applies. If the agency denies the records request, the public has the right to contest the denial through the FOIA appeal process.
FOIA - FAQs
How do I make a FOIA request to the Agency?
You should state clearly and precisely as possible the records you seek. You should sign your request and you may address a request for records to the FNS Administrator, any program director listed in the FNS regulations, or the FOIA Officer.
USDA Food and Nutrition Service
Braddock Metro Center II
1320 Braddock Place
Alexandria, VA 22314
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The effective filing date of a FOIA request is the date the request is received in FNS. The 20-day response time, as permitted by law, begins the day after the request is received in FNS.
The date a FOIA request is received is the beginning of the search date.
Are there any charges for obtaining records under FOIA?
FNS is authorized by law and the fee schedule contained in 7 CFR Part 1, Appendix A, Fee Schedule, to recover the costs of providing information and records on a FOIA request. Generally, the costs associated with providing records are for search, review, and copying charges. Also, other direct costs may be assessed when appropriate. Requesters may be notified of fees in advance of being provided the records. The requester may accept the charges to receive records or may wish to reduce the charges by narrowing the request. Fees of $25 or less are waived.
There are charges for receiving federal records under certain circumstances. The conditions and the charges are contained in the USDA fee schedule.
How long does it take to receive records?
This depends on the nature of the request and the amount of search time necessary to find the records. Generally, FNS will be able to respond to the majority of FOIA requests within the 20 work days, the response time required by law.
Are there any records that are automatically denied?
Yes. There are nine categories of automatically exempted records.
If FNS denies my request can I appeal?
You may appeal your request to the Administrator of the Food and Nutrition Service. The process requires that an agency official, higher in rank than the denying official, review the factual evidence for the denial and either uphold the denial or reverse the decision, partially or wholly, and prepare an appeal response. If the decision of the agency is to uphold the denial, the USDA Office of General Counsel must concur in that decision.
Can I make a telephone request for records?
Yes, you can call in a request but you must follow-up with a written request. The reason a written request is required is that it documents exactly what is being requested and it also provides a record of the request. You may also submit requests by fax or e-mail without submitting a follow-up written request.
The contents of this guidance document do not have the force and effect of law and are not meant to bind the public in any way. This document is intended only to provide clarity to the public regarding existing requirements under the law or agency policies.