USDA Foods Processing

February 17, 2016 @Mesa Convention Center

What is Processing?

USDA Foods processing is an alternative method of using USDA Donated Foods. The Arizona Department of Education (ADE) administers this program. Each year Arizona receives millions of dollars of donated foods from USDA. Some donated foods received from USDA come in ready-to-use form (e.g. canned fruits & vegetables and beef patties), other products are not in a form for easy use such as frozen cut-up chicken, whole turkey and even bulk cheese. This is where schools would consider processing as a way to efficiently use these types of donated foods.

The donated foods processed through this program are for schools participating in the National School Lunch Program and the Food Distribution Program. This alternative method can provide a variety of foods, meet nutritional requirements, reduce costs of meals and add convenience to a school lunch program.

How Do I Participate?

Under this program ADE Food Distribution enters into an agreement with different processing vendors. The vendors will provide a summary of end product data schedules on the type of foods they will manufacture using the hard to use bulk USDA Foods. Food Distribution approves and compiles a list of vendors and their summary end product data schedules into a processing catalog. Food Distribution will then notify schools/sponsors of approved processors through the processing catalog that can be found on the ADE website This catalog provides a detailed summary of all approved products.

Along with the processing catalog ADE will supply processing surveys on the USDA Foods web-based ordering system to all schools as a tool to convert donated foods into processed end products. The schools will submit their request using the surveys to convert specific USDA Foods with specific processors. Based upon survey results ADE compiles the information to coordinate the ordering of full truckloads from USDA to be delivered to the commercial processors. However, ADE can split a truck with another state to meet the full truckload requirement by USDA. USDA will only ship full truckloads to save money on shipping costs.

The entitlement given on the surveys will be drawn down only to purchase the raw bulk donated foods schools want to divert. Schools are required to pay separately for any and all processing fees charged by the processor. ADE conducts a processing workshop in conjunction with the School Nutrition Association to provide technical assistance and guidance to all schools interested in diverting their commodities.


  • Become a participant of NSLP and Food Distribution
  • Participate in the processing workshop and food show to network with other sponsors and Q & A session with processors (e.g. products, prices, minimum orders, etc.)
  • Participate in the processing surveys using processing catalog & worksheet
  • Obtain a confirmation from ADE on USDA Foods being diverted
  • Coordinate deliveries (direct shipment or USFS), type of products and quantity with processor/broker

New to Processing?

ADE offers a Processing for Beginners training in which you can learn how to calculate the amount of USDA Foods to divert to a processor for the items on your menus. Click on the links below to access the training presentation and worksheets.

Processing Catalog:
Log on to CNP2000 to view the Processing Catalog. Contact Dawn or Leona in Food Distribution if you have any processing questions.

Processing Contracts