FNS is proposing to amend its regulations to make access and parity improvements within several food distribution programs, including the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations, The Emergency Food Assistance Program, and USDA Foods disaster response.
- 1. Which regulations and programs would be impacted by the proposed rule, if finalized?
This proposed rulemaking impacts regulatory provisions at 7 CFR 247, 250, 251, 253, and 254. The proposed changes seek to enhance access and parity within several food distribution programs, including the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR), and USDA Foods in Disasters. Specific proposed changes are related to participant eligibility, administrative and financial management, and reporting, among other topics.
- 2. What are the main objectives of the proposed rule?
- Increase access to the USDA Foods programs: The proposed rule aims to increase access to applicable food distribution programs so that eligible individuals can more easily access necessary resources, and program operators are able to easily provide those resources. We have learned over years of implementing these programs that even the smallest regulatory changes to program policies can make a large impact on program access.
- Increase parity between FDPIR and SNAP: The proposed rule also aims to increase parity between FDPIR and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. Many households participate in FDPIR as an alternative to SNAP, and the proposed changes in this rulemaking are intended to increase parity between the two programs in terms of eligibility and benefits provided.
- Modernize program operations and policies: Some of the terminology and processes outlined in the current regulations are outdated. Through this rule, we are proposing several changes to bring our regulations up to date with current program operations and to also build in flexibility for future changes that we may not be able to anticipate yet.
- Incorporate lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic: The COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on the nation’s food system and economy, leading to increased reliance on emergency food networks. With the pandemic ending, FNS is taking this opportunity to improve the food distribution programs through regulatory updates, using insights and lessons learned during the crisis.
- 3. Why is this proposed rule being published now?
The COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on the nation’s food system and economy, leading to increased reliance on emergency food networks. With the pandemic ending, FNS is taking this opportunity to improve the food distribution programs through regulatory updates, using insights and lessons learned during the crisis.
- 4. How did FNS come up with the proposed changes?
Many of the proposed changes originate from feedback previously received from a number of different individuals and groups, including Feeding America, the National Association of Food Distribution Programs on Indian Reservations (NAFDPIR), the FDPIR Tribal Leaders Consultation Working Group (TLCWG), and the National Commodity Supplemental Food Program Association (NSCFPA). Other changes were identified by FNS regional and national office staff and political leadership as necessary to reflect current program operations and/or lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic.
- 5. Who can comment on the proposed rule and how can they do it?
Anyone (individuals and groups) can submit a comment on the proposed rule. FNS is committed to ensuring that we hear from all of our program stakeholders, including members of the public who have not typically participated in the regulatory process, such as households and individuals eligible for nutrition assistance.
Comments may be submitted through the Federal eRulemaking Portal. Go to www.regulations.gov and locate the rule by searching “Improving parity and access”, or follow this link. There are instructions on the platform that will tell you how to submit your comment.
We encourage you to share the proposed rule link with anyone who may be interested in or affected by its provisions, including program participants, and to encourage them to submit any necessary comments.
- 6.Where can I go to better understand the different proposed rule provisions?
The proposed rule was published in the Federal Register.There are also several supporting documents to the proposed rule that can be accessed through that link.
FNS is hosting several technical webinars to explain the proposed changes to key stakeholder groups. Recorded versions of these webinars are available on the FNS website:
- 7. How will FNS consider feedback received about the proposed rule?
Public comments are critical in developing a final rule. They are one of the only formal ways in which FNS receives feedback about the proposed rule provisions; and they provide insight into whether the proposed provisions are clear, logical, and feasible to implement. FNS will carefully analyze each comment received in response to this proposed rulemaking and consider them in developing a final rule for implementation. Each and every comment is important!
If interested in learning more about the notice-and-comment rulemaking process, the Office of the Federal Register’s Guide to the Rulemaking Process provides additional insight on how comments must be considered by federal agencies.
- 8. What are the food distribution programs and how are they different from the USDA Foods programs? What are USDA Foods?
The food distribution programs, also known as the USDA Foods programs, play a key role in our nation’s social safety net. Through these programs – which include CSFP, TEFAP, FDPIR, USDA Foods in the Child Nutrition Programs, and USDA Foods in Disasters – USDA purchases 100% American grown foods and makes those foods available to state agencies, including Indian Tribal Organizations (ITOs). State agencies and ITOs, in collaboration with public and nonprofit partners, work to distribute the foods to those in need, including low-income children, adults, seniors, and Native Americans.
The foods distributed to the food distribution programs are known as “USDA Foods,” reflecting the fact that they are 100% American grown.
- 9. Who will be affected by the proposed rule?
The changes in the rule are only proposed and will not take effect until a final rule is developed, published, and implemented. Proposed provisions in the rule, if made permanent via a final rule, would affect CSFP, TEFAP, and FDPIR participants, in addition to those individuals seeking USDA Foods disaster assistance. The proposed changes would also affect state agencies, ITOs, and local agencies that administer CSFP, TEFAP, FDPIR, and USDA Foods in Disasters.
- 10. Does this rule affect USDA Foods in Schools / USDA Foods in the Child Nutrition Programs?
No, the proposed rule does not propose any changes to the use of USDA Foods in the child nutrition programs, including the National School Lunch Program (NSLP).
- 11. Would the nondiscrimination statement for TEFAP, FDPIR, and CSFP change under the proposed rule?
No, the USDA nondiscrimination statement for TEFAP, FDPIR, and CSFP would not change under the proposed rule. USDA is only proposing a technical update to program regulations to remove the actual text of the nondiscrimination statement from the regulations and replace it with text that advises the public that these programs must be operated in accordance with the most current USDA nondiscrimination statement.
The purpose of this proposed change is to ensure that the regulations remain current and aligned with any potential future modifications to the USDA nondiscrimination statement. The most current nondiscrimination statements for the food distribution programs can be found on the civil rights page.