Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

USDA Foods

Laws and Regulations

Code of Federal Regulations
Title 7, Part: 250

The National School Lunch Program is a federally assisted meal program administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). It allows children in public and nonprofit private schools and residential child care institutions to receive nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches.

Approximately 15-20 percent of the National School Lunch Program support that schools receive may be in the form of USDA commodity foods that are used in the preparation of the students’ meals. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) is responsible for providing these USDA commodities to participating schools in Florida.

To be eligible to receive commodities, the schools must be approved by FDACS for participation in the National School Lunch Program. Private, nonprofit Florida schools interested in participating in the National School Lunch Program should contact FDACS for information about the program and to file a National School Lunch Program application.  

Once approved for the National School Lunch Program by FDACS, the school can apply to receive commodities. The commodity entitlement is based on the average daily number of lunches served by the entity. Because commodities are ordered and allocated in the spring for the following school year, a school must have an agreement with FDACS by that time to fully benefit from the commodity program.

The variety of commodities that schools can get from the USDA depends on quantities available and market conditions. Starting in the spring, USDA offers commodities for the schools to choose from and requisition for the upcoming school year.

Schools place their requisitions using the USDA’s Web-Based Supply Chain Management system. Based on those requisitions, FDACS staff places the orders with the USDA on behalf of the schools, total quantities requested and shipping periods available.

Depending on the quantities requested, schools can choose to have their commodities delivered to their own warehouse, a privately contracted warehouse or a state-contracted warehouse. In the case of some bulk items, commodities may be diverted to a processor to be made into a more user-friendly or acceptable product.