Fresh shell eggs are now available to 28 more Native American tribes throughout the country, thanks to a fresh produce program administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support.
Last month the tribes signed on to receive eggs along with fresh fruits and vegetables through the USDA’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program. DLA Troop Support operates the program that provides fresh produce to schools and Native American tribes throughout the United States.
A total of 88 tribes are now approved to order shell eggs through the program, according to Patricia Scott, chief of the Subsistence Continental U.S. garrison feeding program.
The USDA previously offered a powered egg mix, and there is only one manufacturer left in the U.S. that makes this product, Scott said. Due to availability and pricing concerns, the USDA decided to switch to fresh eggs.
The USDA then asked DLA Troop Support if vendors could provide shell eggs as part of the fresh foods catalog, Scott said.
“Tribes also had to identify that they had the proper storage and take in this item when it comes to their facilities,” she said. “That’s how it came to be. We filled a niche where the USDA would have to otherwise contract with these vendors for shell eggs themselves. It was a great fit, and we can do it.”
From January through mid-October, DLA Troop Support received 1,565 orders for eggs that were shipped to 139 locations, she said.
“It’s good for DLA to be able to continue to provide this perishable type of item successfully to these communities that are relying on food security,” Scott said.
Vendors need to provide agricultural products that meet the customers’ needs while also meeting the demands of the USDA and DLA. Even items like seasonal fruits and vegetables have to be high quality, Scott said, and then are removed once they are no longer available in the U.S.
Shell eggs, by nature, are delicate, but there have been very few incidents in shipping the eggs to the tribes, said Joseph Hauser, Subsistence Produce and Market Fresh division chief.
“Overall, it’s been very successful,” Hauser said.
The USDA allocated almost $10 million a year for the last two years to fresh produce and eggs to Native American tribes, Scott said.
Tribes that receive the produce and eggs are located across the country, from Texas to New York. They have to comply with the eligibility requirements of the USDA’s Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations, which provides food to households on reservations and Native American households in designated areas near reservations, or in Oklahoma. The USDA distributes food and administrative funds to participating Indian Tribal Organizations and state agencies to operate the FDPIR.
“Working with this program is part of our whole of government effort to have the ability to support non-traditional customers,” Hauser said. “We view the tribes as an important customer, as we do the schools and our traditional warfighter customers. We do everything we can to make sure they’re served and satisfied.”