USDA launches online grocery

USDA's Electronic Commodity Ordering System

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The Agriculture Department has completed the nationwide launch of an online grocery store for such state programs as school lunches and emergency food assistance.

The Electronic Commodity Ordering System allows state officials to order nonperishable foods online, replacing a paper-based or electronic data interchange system.

"It allows for a very accurate picture of which commodities [are available] for which state," said Donna Burnette, major accounts manager for the federal solutions group of ATG, the company that provided the framework for the ordering system.

With the system, the USDA has a clear understanding, for example, of each school district's needs and a grasp on which commodities are in demand. Simultaneously, the school districts can move from ordering in bulk, common with a slower paper-driven system, to ordering just in time, based on need, Burnette said.

The ordering system allows state officials to access ordering records, save grocery lists and keep stock of what they have ordered, she said.

The system was piloted in California, Connecticut, Illinois and Virginia, and launched nationwide in mid-March. It now serves 76 state agencies and about 1,000 users.

"It's been incredibly well-received," Burnette said. "It had such a positive impact at the district level that they immediately opened it up to all the schools."

EDS is the prime integrator for the system.

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