The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) provides food known as commodities to help meet the nutritional needs of children, elderly, handicapped and needy families. By law USDA acquires agricultural commodities through price support programs, surplus removal, and direct purchase programs from the national market to provide nutritious high quality commodities to assorted programs and needy families.

Yes, but not always. It may be foods purchased from a crop excess or it may be a planned contract to help a farmer make a profit while at the same time providing for nutritional needs. These food items are not available to the general public.

We should all care about managing our natural resources. Our farm lands are one of our greatest natural resources that need management to ensure a strong agricultural market. For example, let's say the summer of 2004 was one of the greatest growing seasons for corn of all time. Every farmer that planted corn had a record harvest. The markets are loaded with excess corn and the price of corn starts to drop. The price drops so low that it cost the farmer more to plant the crop than it is worth. The farmer now starts selling land to developers. Farm land is developed into non-farming ventures and a shortage of farm land is created. We have to keep in mind that we cannot guarantee a record harvest every year. Some years require more land to produce needed crops. If we continue to transform farm land to non-farming ventures we will create a shortage of farm land creating a shortage of food. So in actuality, by supporting the farmer we are stabilizing the crop prices for tomorrow.

The USDA has been providing food to people and assisting farmers since 1935. The great Depression, which left millions of families without purchasing power and the nation's farmers without a market for their products, was the driving force behind the first piece of legislation that initiated the Food Distribution Program. This law authorized removal of surplus perishable foods and helped to stabilize prices. In 1946, the National School Lunch Act provided funds for the purchase of commodities for schools to improve the health and well-being of the nation's youth.

There is no charge for USDA foods. Depending on agency type, delivery and storage fees may be charged.

National School Lunch Program (NSLP): Established to provide nutritionally balanced meals for children attending public or private nonprofit schools and residential child care institutions (RCCI). The School Breakfast Program (SBP) operates under the same eligibility criteria as NSLP.

Summer Food Services Program (SFSP): Established to ensure that needy children would be able to receive meals during the summer months similar to those provided during the school year by the NSLP.

Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP): Works to improve the health of low-income elderly persons at least 60 years of age by supplementing their diets with nutritious USDA Foods.

Nutrition Services Incentive Program (NSIP): Established to help with the nutritional well-being of people over the age of 60. In Delaware, cash and commodities are provided for congregate meal sites and meals on wheels programs.

The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP): Established to make surplus and supplemental foods available to homeless and needy households through a network of shelters, soup kitchens, food banks and other emergency feeding organizations.

Commodities are offered in a variety of food types including meats, poultry, fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy and peanuts.

In Delaware, the Office of Management and Budget, Government Support Services, Federal Food Commodities Program is the State Agency responsible for administration of the various USDA commodity programs. The non-commodity areas of various Child Nutrition programs are administered by the Department of Education.

For Fiscal Year 2016, the Delaware Federal Food Commodities Program delivered a total of 7,589,899 pounds for a total value of $7,270,452.

The Delaware Federal Food Commodity Program distributes USDA foods to a number of shelters, soup kitchens, pantries and the Delaware Food Bank. For specific locations and help, contact your local State Service Center.

All schools must be approved for the National School Lunch Program by the Department of Education. After approval is granted, contact the Federal Food Commodities Program Manager at (302) 838-8060.