Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Continuation of USDA Food Assistance During a Human Pandemic (Revised)

EO Guidance Document #
FNS Document #
Resource type
Policy Memos
Guidance Documents
Resource Materials
PDF Icon Policy Memo (340.53 KB)
DATE: August 31,2009
POLICY MEMO: FD-066: Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR), Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), National School Lunch Program (NSLP), Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), Nutrition Services lncentive Program (NSIP), Processing Program, Charitable Institutions & Summer Camps
SUBJECT: Continuation of the Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Assistance During a Human Pandemic (Revised)

As a result of activities undertaken to plan a government-wide response to a potential human pandemic, the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) has been asked to address the operation of its USDA food programs during a major pandemic event.

During a human pandemic outbreak, public health officials anticipate the need for "social distancing" as a means of minimizing the spread of illness by limiting person-to-person contact. As a result, feeding involving USDA food that takes place in congregate settings, such as schools, soup kitchens participating in TEFAP, and sites set up for mass feeding of those in need during times of disaster will be discouraged. In such instances, feeding is more likely to occur, with appropriate safeguards, through programs that have the capability of distributing USDA food to individual households for consumption at home.

It is possible that, for large-scale human pandemic outbreaks, the President would issue a disaster or emergency declaration for an area. In such instances, the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act affords federal agencies authority to waive federal administrative requirements to ensure the continued operation of federal programs. In such instances, FNS may, depending on the nature and scope of the outbreak, explore options for waiving federal administrative program requirements to ensure the continuation of benefits to eligible program participants to the extent possible.

A large-scale human pandemic outbreak could also adversely affect the ability of state and local agencies, and other entities, such as warehouses and carriers, to perform the functions necessary to deliver USDA food to state and local agencies. We strongly encourage state and local agencies to work together to identify viable alternatives to existing distribution networks that could be implemented should the need arise. In such an environment, FNS intends to work closely with state agencies and other partners and stakeholders to ensure the continued distribution of USDA food to the extent possible.

For more information on how to respond to a human pandemic and other disasters, local agencies should contact their state agency. 

Cathie McCullough
Food Distribution Division

Page updated: December 16, 2022

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.