Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer has announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is purchasing up to 3.6 million pounds of fresh tomatoes with currently available farm bill funds.

The tomatoes will be donated to child nutrition and other domestic food assistance programs.

USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) purchases a variety of high-quality food products each year for distribution by USDA's Food and Nutrition Service (FNS). The products are distributed through FNS' 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.

USDA also makes emergency purchases of commodities for distribution to those affected by natural disasters.

With the announcement, AMS will award immediately contracts for the desired quantity to responsible bidders.

Government food experts work to ensure that all of the food purchased is healthy and nutritious. Food items normally are required to be low in fat, sugar and sodium. The commodities must meet specified grade requirements and be USDA-inspected or graded to ensure quality. AMS purchases only products of 100 percent domestic origin.

More information about USDA programs is available at http://www.usda.gov.