Missouri’s School USDA Foods Distribution Most Efficient; Cave Storage is the Reason


Missouri has the lowest-cost school commodities distribution system in the country. Each case of food costs $1.84 for delivery, 38 cents for handling, and 22 cents for storage. Why only 22 cents? Because Missouri stores all of its school commodity supply in a cave! The cave’s constant temperature reduces the cost of refrigeration.

Deep underground, near Worlds of Fun in Kansas City, lies a huge complex called Subtropolis. The five-million-square-foot facility is home to 50 businesses, including Missouri’s Food and Nutrition Services USDA food storage. The cave is a former limestone mine that has been repurposed as warehouse space.

“Missouri is fortunate to have cave storage available,” said Andy Dudenhoeffer, director of food distribution for the Department. “Not only do we save refrigeration costs, but having cave storage in the western part of the state and standard warehouse storage on the eastern side saves transportation costs for delivery.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) provides food for the program. Schools receive funds based on the number of reimbursed lunches they serve to students. The schools may then use those funds to purchase commodities. Many choose bulk items such as canned or frozen vegetables and fruit, peanut butter, beans or rice. Chicken, beef, pork and fish are also available.

“We are proud to have the lowest-cost food distribution system in the country,” said Dr. Ron Lankford, deputy commissioner for the Division of Financial and Administrative Services. “We are committed to making the best use of our funding, and beyond that, we are committed to ensuring that all public schools in Missouri are able to provide nutritious meals for every student.”