"This purchase will provide recipients of federal food programs with popular, nutritious food products," said Veneman.

USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service purchases a variety of high quality food products every year for distribution by USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service to the National School Lunch Program, the School Breakfast Program, the Summer Food Service Program, the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations, the Nutrition Program for the Elderly, the Commodity Supplemental Food Program and the Emergency Food Assistance Program.

The department also makes emergency purchases of commodities for distribution to victims of natural disasters.

Today’s announcement will bring the total purchases of dried fruits and tree nuts in this fiscal year (beginning Oct. 1, 2002) to $95.1 million. This is the second largest total annual purchase of these products in several years. In fiscal year 2001, with special supplemental funding from Congress, USDA purchased $118 million worth of dried fruits and tree nuts.

More information on USDA programs is available at www.usda.gov.

e-mail: flaws@primediabusiness.com