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Frequently Asked Questions about USDA Foods for School Nutrition Programs

What are USDA Foods?

USDA foods are American produced agricultural products. The USDA purchases food from producers and processors to strengthen American agriculture and improve the nutritional health of citizens participating in food programs.

How does USDA know what kinds of foods schools want?

USDA offers to each state a dollar limit (entitlement) that can be used to order certain USDA foods. The state orders the USDA foods that are preferred by ND schools.

What is Entitlement?

Entitlement is the dollar value of commodities to which you are entitled. Entitlement is calculated by multiplying your October Average Daily Participation (ADP) times the per meal value (currently 22.75 cents) times 180 days.

How do I order USDA Foods?

School USDA foods are ordered monthly through the NDFoods online system. The link is on the homepage of Child Nutrition and Food Distribution Programs.

What is a food survey?

A food survey is a list of available USDA foods. An email is sent electronically to the USDA Food Rep to notify them a survey is available and can be completed online. Typically, schools have two weeks to complete a survey. Once the survey closes, no more orders can be accepted. Two surveys are offered in April and May of the previous school year for August and September deliveries in the upcoming school year. The schedule for food survey dates is available in School Programs – Resources for School USDA Food Programs under Food Distribution.

What is a bonus USDA Food?

A bonus USDA food IS NOT deducted from your entitlement. USDA determines what items are bonuses in response to market conditions. USDA also determines when these items are available and how many cases are allocated to North Dakota.

Will I receive exactly what I indicate on a food survey? Yes. The NDFoods ordering system will allow DPI to only offer items that are currently available in the warehouse or items that will be arriving before deliveries are made. This new process will eliminate most cancellations of items but not all cancellations.

However, USDA can delay a shipment or cancel orders at any time. This would mean that some changes might be required on your order.

Will I be able to go over my Entitlement on a food survey?

The NDFoods system does not allow schools to go over their entitlement. Under certain situations, as long as the overall state entitlement is not exceeded, we can allow you to overspend by making an adjustment in the NDFoods system. If your needs slightly exceed your total entitlement, please contact our office to discuss what percentage over you will need to be able complete your order.

I received a product and students don’t like it. Can I return it?

Our policy is that you arrange to transfer a product to another school/agency. The expense of transferring the food must be covered by the schools involved.

What is a processed food?

USDA foods are processed to make them easier to serve and more acceptable to students. USDA contracts the processing of some hard-to-use products. Currently, North Dakota purchases bulk chicken, egg and beef to be processed at a variety of vendors throughout the United States.
There is an entitlement deduction for the amount of USDA food in each case of a processed item. For example, on a food survey, if you order one case of chicken nuggets, your entitlement would be deducted by the dollar amount of USDA chicken used to make one case of finished chicken nuggets.

How do we pay for processed USDA foods?

There is a processing charge per case for processed USDA foods. Schools will receive an electronic invoice at the end of the month from DPI. The processing charge DOES NOT come off your entitlement. The school is responsible for paying any processing charges within 30 days of receipt of invoice.

A complete list of processed items and their nutritional information and processing charge is located on our website under Food Distribution and under Resources.

Who pays the warehouse and delivery charges?

DPI pays warehouse and delivery charges using the school’s state match funds. When all of the state match funds have been used, your school will see a balance or total due on your monthly invoice.

How often and where will I get deliveries?

Deliveries are made monthly to one location per district. The schedule is set by the state contracted vendor. Your school is assigned a delivery week A, B, or C. Small schools are encouraged to consolidate deliveries (example: every other month) to save the minimum drop charge. Simply decline a survey during the particular month you do not wish to receive USDA foods.

What if there is a shortage or damaged product?

Count and inspect all items before the driver leaves the premises. The driver will give you a “USDA food receipt” listing all the items that are being delivered. Note any shortage or damaged products on the signature portion, sign and return the receipt to the driver. COUNTING AND INSPECTING AFTER THE DRIVER LEAVES DOES NOT MAKE A VALID CLAIM.

If a product has hidden damage (inside a pallet), call our office and give us the details. These products can be replaced.

How do I count and inspect when the truck arrives during serving?

The supervisor should appoint and train at least one other person to count, inspect and store the USDA foods. The driver operates on a tight schedule, and deliveries could arrive during serving time. The driver brings the foods to your delivery area, but is not responsible for putting food in the cooler or freezer.


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North Dakota Department of Public Instruction
Kirsten Baesler, State Superintendent
600 E. Boulevard Avenue, Dept. 201
Bismarck, North Dakota 58505-0440

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