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Hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, chemical spills, and other disasters may generate a need for congreagate(mass) feeding. Irrespective of the type of disaster, the response from USDA, States, and school food authorities will remain the same.

Any food donated by USDA to school food authorities can be used in disaster feeding. Recognizing the emergency and the need to feed people, school food authorities and other outlets having USDA donated commodities must cooperate fully and make these foods available to groups involved in disaster feeding activities.

The American Red Cross is the primary disaster organization, but USDA, directly and through school food authorities, will provide foods to any recognized agency equipped to serve disaster victims. The Salvation Army, many religious denominations, civic organizations, unions and others are able to provide food preparation for congregate service.

USDA has no foods specifically designated for disaster feeding and must depend on foods in State warehouses, commercial distributors and/or warehouses, and at the school food authority. USDA foods are not always available in quantity to fill all needs, but they do provide a good supplement to those provided by the disaster agency.

A specific school may be designated as a shelter. There are many considerations that enter into this selection including size, available facilities, safety factors, protection from storm surge and others. Generally, an all-electric kitchen is not a desirable because of the likelihood of power outages.

In most cases, the Red Cross or other disaster organizations will provide a trained shelter manager and, in many cases, personnel to operate the kitchen and food service facility. If school food service personnel help in the feeding operation, funds are available from local, State, Federal and disaster organizations to pay for them.

Accurate records must be kept by the school food authority of all foods provided or used for disaster feeding purposes. Signed receipts should be obtained for all foods transferred to disaster feeding organizations. The school food authority will be asked to provide verbal information on foods used/transferred and numbers of people fed, (if it is doing the feeding) on an immediate basis. As soon as the disaster is over, the school food authority is to send final and total information to the state distribution agency. Prompt reporting will permit USDA to replace the foods provided or used with the same or other desirable foods at an early date.

In disaster situations, state distribution agencies are authorized to release for congregate feeding activities any foods in schools or other recipient agencies or other storage locations under contract to them without prior approval of USDA.

Any other use of USDA commodities for disaster feeding must have prior approval of USDA.


In spite of quality controls and inspections, products sometimes find their way into the marketplace which may be suspected to cause a potential health hazard. Full cooperation is necessary at all levels (Federal, State, and Local) to identify and hold suspected products. As soon as the Regional Office is notified of a food alert, NCDA&CS representatives will contact each school food authority.

When the food alert is over, the Food Distribution Division will contact the school food authority as to the proper steps to be taken with commodities.


In the food business, every company will occasionally have complaints regarding their products. This is also true with USDA commodities. If a school food authority experiences problems with commodities such as a packaging problem (rusty cans, bags not sealed properly), foreign objects in the food, poor quality/texture of food, the Food Distribution Division should be contacted immediately. Before the Food Distribution Division is contacted, the school food authority should gather all available information concerning the problem such as: name of the commodity, nature of the complaint, number of cases/bags, pack date, contract number, total number cases in inventory, packer's name, and NCDA&CS invoice number. The food in question should be placed on hold until it can be inspected and/or a decision made as to what
action is to be taken.

Depending upon the circumstances, (i.e., quantity involved, whether no charge or entitlement), every effort will be made to replace the food or provide payment for the commodity.

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