Local Food Procurement Toolkit

Incorporating local foods into school nutrition programs may seem daunting, but the benefits can far outweigh the challenges. When students are served fresh, skillfully-prepared foods from local producers, the result is often increased participation, which leads to greater revenue for the school meal program, improved student nutrition, and increased connection to the community. The values-based tiered buying resources in this toolkit includes a step-by-step guide and fillable templates for K-12 and early childhood meal programs. 

Each school nutrition program has a unique set of priorities, challenges, and values that determines what food they purchase, how much of it they’ll buy, where that food comes from, and how it will be used. Taking the time to develop and communicate which values are motivating your school nutrition program’s purchasing decisions has several benefits: 

  • helps simplify daily decisions and sift through the multiple purchasing options available. 
  • frames food program decisions within the context of values when speaking to the broader community. 
  • creates a shared vision and open communication among school nutrition, administration, teachers, parents, and students. 

Going through a procurement process may seem like just more paperwork, but it actually builds relationships between buyers and sellers: Buyers achieve a consistent supply of product that meets their criteria, and sellers know what is expected.

The Informal Solicitation Bid templates and Vendor Response Sheet templates are designed to help school nutrition personnel and their advocates to purchase the local products they want, while also streamlining the process and ensuring compliance with USDA informal procurement rules and regulations. They prompt school nutrition professionals to develop bidding criteria beyond price that reflect the values of the school nutrition program. The vendor response form templates help vendors to understand the criteria and respond to bid solicitations efficiently.

By developing and communicating your values-based purchasing practices, and by sending out solicitations to local farmers, producers, food hubs, and other distributors, you are communicating that you are a serious and viable potential customer with clear criteria for product beyond price. It indicates to your community that you believe in supporting the local economy and in providing quality food to their children. 

Tips, Tools, and Frequently Asked Questions

Values-Based Tiered Buying Resources

Be sure to check on the informal solicitation bid threshold in your state. Below the threshold, the forms below can be used and you can solicit three bids. Over the threshold, you have to use a formal procurement bid (which can have a values statement and criteria, and some different requirements).

Solicitation Bid Templates (sent out by schools to announce need and criteria)
Format: editable Word documents

  1. Informal Solicitation Bid - General Template 
  2. Informal Solicitation Bid - Forward Contract for Produce with Geographic Preference Template
  3. Informal Solicitation Bid - Produce Template
  4. Informal Solicitation Bid - Maple Syrup Template
  5. Informal Solicitation Bid - Beef Template
  6. Informal Solicitation Bid - Beef with Geographic Preference Template
  7. Informal Solicitation Bid - Dairy Template
  8. Informal Solicitation Bid - Egg Template
  9. Produce Market Basket Specifications Bid Template

Vendor Response Sheet Templates (sent out by schools for farmers to fill out)
Format: editable Word documents

  1. Vendor Response Form - Produce Template 
  2. Vendor Response Form - Produce with Geographic Preference Template
  3. Vendor Response Form - Dairy with Geographic Preference Template
  4. Vendor Response Form - Beef Template
  5. Vendor Response Form - Beef with Geographic Preference Template

*Download the slide deck from our Values-Based Local Procurement Webinar with Maine Farm to School Network and USDA. Summer 2020.

[Photo by Ben Hudson]