Commodity Foods

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) administers several programs that distribute commodity foods, which are foods that the federal government has the legal authority to purchase and distribute in order to support farm prices. The first commodity distribution program began during the Great Depression of the 1930s, when it was known as the Needy Family Program. This was the main form of food assistance for low-income people in the United States until the Food Stamp Program was expanded in the early 1970s. The Needy Family Program distributed surplus agricultural commodities such as cheese, butter, and other items directly to low-income people. Today, the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, administers the nation's commodity food distribution programs. The programs continue to improve the nutrition status of low-income people, while providing a means for using surplus agricultural commodities from U.S. farm programs.

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