As another school year starts, the Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support is set to provide fresh produce for students at approximately 12,000 schools throughout the U.S.
DLA Troop Support’s Subsistence supply chain operates the DOD Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, which supports 48 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Guam.
The Defense Department program enables schools that participate in the Department of Agriculture’s National School Lunch Program to use food entitlement dollars to buy fresh produce.
“This has been a great partnership between the USDA and the Defense Logistics Agency,” said Patricia Scott, division chief of garrison feeding in Subsistence. “It really shows where two federal agencies can work together for a mutual program.”
The program began in 1993 as Subsistence provided $3.2 million in produce to schools in eight states. That grew to $198 million of produce last year. And $227 million has been allocated for the program so far this year, Scott said.
Several factors contribute to the success of the program, including the customer service that Subsistence provides, flexibility, and the variety and quality of products, Scott said.
“We provide all the contracting oversight, invoice reconciliation, audits of the prime vendor facilities and provide customer service if they have any issues,” said Scott.
The DoD Fresh Program is voluntary and allows states to participate and leave the program at any time.
Virginia left the program in the 1990s, but re-enrolled for the 2007-2008 school year, said Jeri Thornton, program coordinator for food distribution in the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
“What brought us back to the program was the understanding that shipping and billing would be easier and better than it was in the past,” said Thornton.
Schools can choose from a variety of produce, including apples, melons, peaches, lettuces, salad mixes, onions, peppers and potatoes.
Working with the schools makes Scott feel connected to the local community, especially in the Philadelphia area where DLA Troop Support is located. Pennsylvania has allocated $2.5 million to the program for this year.
“The school folks are just great to work with, especially now that we have Pennsylvania, it is kind of exciting to talk to people that could be in your own community,” said Scott. “Since we have our Subsistence field reps that live in Denver, or California or Orlando, they are talking to people in their community. So you really feel connected in that way.”
Schools interested in learning more may contact their state distributing agency or the DLA service representative.