Agriculture and Food:

GAO Audits of the Commodity Food Area

T-RCED-90-15: Published: Nov 15, 1989. Publicly Released: Nov 15, 1989.

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GAO discussed the Department of Agriculture's (USDA) implementation of 31 legislatively mandated commodity distribution program reforms, focusing on the commodity food distribution program at four Indian reservations. GAO noted that: (1) to implement the reforms, USDA ordered a comprehensive review of the commodity distribution program, established special commodity initiatives to improve commodity donations, and appointed a departmental task force to coordinate reform activities; (2) USDA has implemented all 31 reforms, but plans to take additional action on 4 implemented reforms to formalize procedures or provide guidance for federal, state, or local operations; (3) USDA cited the lengthy regulatory process, unrealistic deadlines, and reform complexity as primary reasons for not timely implementing 10 of the 16 reforms which had implementation deadlines; and (4) both the public and USDA expressed concerns reform implementation costs, feasibility, appropriateness, and monitoring. GAO also noted that: (1) although USDA intended the Indian food commodity program as a supplemental food source, many reservation households relied on the food packages as their sole source of food; (2) food packages did not always contain a proper variety of food and were not always based on nutritional considerations; (3) recipients received the same choice of foods, regardless of individual health conditions; and (4) although USDA reduced the salt, fat, and sugar content of some food items, more such reductions and improved nutrition education were necessary to improve overall health conditions at the reservations.

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