WASHINGTON, D.C. – The US Department of Agriculture plans to purchase up to $40 million of chicken products for federal food nutrition assistance programs, including food banks, announced Tom Vilsack, Agriculture Secretary.

“This purchase will provide welcome assistance to thousands of families in these challenging economic times,” he said. “It will also provide support to the broiler industry and the many small independent poultry growers that depend on the industry for their livelihood. Broiler producers have already cut production substantially and this purchase will help them bring supply in line with demand.”

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service purchases a variety of high-quality food products each year to support the National School Lunch Program, the School Breakfast Program, the Summer Food Service Program, the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations, the Commodity Supplemental Food Program and The Emergency Food Assistance Program. USDA also makes emergency food purchases for distribution to victims of natural disasters.

Government food experts work to ensure that all purchased food is healthful and nutritious. Food items are required to be low in fat, sugar and sodium. These commodities must meet specified requirements and be certified to ensure quality.

“At a time when the industry is under great stress due to the high cost of feed ingredients and the general economic slowdown, we appreciate USDA’s willingness to step forward and acquire additional chicken for various feeding programs,” said National Chicken Council President Mike Brown. “Thanks to prevailing price trends, the government is getting a bargain on high-quality food to help meet the nutritional needs of the clients of these programs, while the industry is getting some relief from excessive inventories.

“Chicken is always a popular item for food banks and other feeding programs,” he added. “We are pleased to be able to participate in these programs and grateful for USDA’s timely action.”

For more information or purchase details, interested suppliers should contact, in writing: Contracting Officer, USDA/AMS Commodity Procurement Division, Stop 0256, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20250; telephone (202) 720-4476; or visit the AMS website atwww.ams.usda.gov.