Increased USDA Support to Nutrition Programs Strengthens Food Systems: Food and Nutrition Service Highlights from the First Year of the Biden Administration
“WASHINGTON, Jan. 19, 2022 – USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) today recognized the strides made toward advancing market opportunities in America’s food and agriculture industries throughout year one of the Biden-Harris Administration. Through efforts to strengthen the food supply chain, USDA and the administration have demonstrated their steadfast commitment to creating economic opportunity and promoting fairness for American farmers, producers, and consumers.
“A strong and resilient supply chain is critical to our ability to deliver federal food assistance to millions of Americans,” said Stacy Dean, deputy under secretary for food, nutrition, and consumer services. “While COVID-19 exposed vulnerabilities, it also presented an opportunity to build back better by creating better and fairer markets that can support businesses and consumers in good times and bad.”
FNS Administrator Cindy Long added, “USDA is committed to supporting the nation’s food systems, ensuring our programs can deliver nutrition assistance to Americans in need. FNS has worked tirelessly to mitigate the immediate impact of supply chain issues on its programs while leveraging all the tools at our disposal to strengthen food systems for the future.”
Highlights of FNS efforts to create more and better market opportunities since January 2021 include:
Providing Schools Relief from Supply Chain Disruptions
Supply chain issues have rippled through the entire economy, especially the food industry. As part of a comprehensive set of investments, USDA allocated $1.5 billion to school meal programs to help them overcome pandemic-related supply chain challenges that have made it harder to serve kids meals. The unprecedented funding made available through USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation includes $1 billion for schools to purchase American-produced food for their meal programs and another $300 million for states to purchase domestic foods to be distributed to schools. An additional $200 million will be used for schools to purchase local foods through cooperative agreements, with a focus on buying from historically underserved producers.
In addition to this financial boost, FNS has provided significant flexibilities, resources, and hands-on support to help schools adapt to the ever-changing pandemic situation and its impact on the supply chain. States and schools have leveraged that support, in partnership with USDA, to deploy a broad range of creative solutions to ensure children continued to access nutritious meals, while also investing in their local economies. For example:
- In Missouri, schools teamed up with local producers, hospitals and grocers to increase their collective buying-power.
- In Pennsylvania, state agency staff worked directly with food distributors to ensure that schools were able to get the supplies they need.
- To address staffing shortages, culinary students in Kansas supported school food service staff, while Wyoming schools converted part-time cafeteria employees to full-time positions with benefits.
Increasing Economic Opportunities for Farmers through SNAP
USDA has worked rapidly to expand online purchasing in SNAP over the past year, adding 89 stores and store-banners representing thousands of new retailers since January 2021. SNAP online purchasing offers the same convenience to SNAP participants that millions of Americans rely on to buy food. As part of its commitment to expanding market opportunities and boosting local economies, the department awarded a $4 million grant to the National Association of Farmers Market Nutrition Programs, a nonprofit organization that will help farmers accept SNAP benefits online. This will help SNAP participants purchase fresh food seamlessly and conveniently, while also helping local farmers reach a broader customer base.
Boosting Purchases of Domestic and Local Agricultural Products
Through a variety of actions, FNS and the Biden-Harris Administration have encouraged the purchase of local foods to help expand markets and make the food system more fair, competitive, and resilient. For example, FNS:
- Allocated $12 million in Farm to School Grants to a record-breaking 176 grantees – serving 6,800 schools and more than 1.4 million children – to incorporate local food as well as food and agriculture education into school meals and other child nutrition programs. USDA also awarded $5.5 million in Team Nutrition Grants to help 21 states increase the use of local foods in school meals.
- Purchased over $28 million of local produce to provide high-need families with pre-packed, mixed produce through the TEFAP Fresh Produce initiative. This is one of many ways FNS and USDA are investing in the emergency food system.
- Awarded $3.5 million in Self-Determination Demonstration Project contracts to eight Tribal Organizations that administer the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR). A portion of those funds will be used to purchase local, traditional foods from Tribal vendors and producers.
USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service leverages its 15 nutrition assistance programs to ensure that children, low-income individuals, and families have opportunities for a better future through equitable access to safe, healthy, and nutritious food, while building a more resilient food system. Under the leadership of Secretary Tom Vilsack, FNS is fighting to end food and nutrition insecurity for all through programs such as SNAP, school meals, and WIC. FNS also provides science-based nutrition recommendations through the co-development of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.”