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When procuring goods and services for the Child Nutrition Programs, a school food authority must determine whether they must use an informal or formal procurement method. It is important to understand and then identify which method best meets the needs of your individual school food service operation. Informal procurement occurs when a school food authority’s purchases fall at or below the Federal, State, or local small purchase threshold (whichever is more restrictive). The Informal Procurement method is commonly referred to as procurement under the small purchase threshold or simplified acquisitions. Although this method is permitted when the amount of a purchase falls at or below the most restrictive small purchase threshold, a school food authority could choose to use the formal procurement method (see below for more information) rather than the informal procurement method.

The following steps are typically involved in an Informal Procurement:

  1. Develop specifications in writing;
  2. Identify sources eligible, able, and willing to provide products;
  3. Contact at least three sources;
  4. Evaluate bidders’ response to your written specifications; and
  5. Determine most responsive and responsible bidder at lowest price.

Formal procurement occurs when a school food authority’s purchases exceed the Federal, State, or local small purchase threshold (whichever is more restrictive). Within Formal Procurement there are two methods available: Competitive Sealed Bidding (commonly referred to as sealed bidding and uses an invitation for bid or IFB) and Competitive Negotiation (which uses a request for proposal or RFP).

The following steps are typically involved in a Formal Procurement:

  1. Develop solicitation specifications;
    • Geographic preference points may be incorporated into scoring criteria for unprocessed local grown or raised agricultural products;
  2. Publicly announce the solicitation;
  3. Evaluate bidders using established scoring criteria in solicitation;
  4. Providers of locally grown or raised unprocessed agricultural products receive extra points in scoring; and
  5. Determine most responsive and responsible bidder at lowest price

These procurement methods are designed to provide free and open competition and ensure that Federal funds—when used to purchase products or services—result in the best and most responsive product at the lowest possible price.

Farm 2 School:

Farm 2 School is a program to encourage K-12 schools to source the food stuffs needed to feed their students from as local as possible.  Local foods usually are higher in nutrients because nutritional loss due to shipping is lessened. For the same reason, they may be of higher quality as well. Purchasing from local sources usually keeps the money circulating in the local economy.  Schools have also brought in the local producers for nutrition education opportunities with the students to make a stronger connection between the food they eat and the land it was grown on.

School kitchens must use proper procurement practices for all food but they can give extra points when awarding contracts for local food items. Please see the information above for information on ways to properly procure local foods.

The National Network for Farm to School contains more resources with recipes, food hubs, training, nutrition education and more. All 50 states are represented on this network so take a look at the creative problem solving from partners all over the United States.

Below are resources that will help food service directors solicit local foods and obtain them to serve safely on their meal lines.

Guide for Buying and Selling Local Food

Resources are all available on the Institute of Child Nutrition (www.theicn.org):

Procurement

CICN Farm to School: Tips and Strategies for Purchasing Directly from Local Producers – Training video

S.T.A.R Strategies to Help Implement a Sucessful Farm to School Program – Training presentation

Procuring Local Foods for Child Nutrition Programs – video & printed material

Food Safety

Verifying On Farm Food Safety

Traceability

Food Safety Practices to Expect from Your Fresh Cut Produce Processor from ICN

Food Safety Practices to Expect from Your Fresh Produce Distributor from ICN

The Produce Lab Videos – Good Agricultural Practices (GAPS)

Find your local food partners on the North Dakota Department of Agriculture website: Local Foods | North Dakota Department of Agriculture (nd.gov)