Purchasing local goods and services supports surrounding communities and economies, helps the environment, and makes for a safer food supply. The definition of “local” is defined by each School Food Authority (SFA). There is no federal definition. The SFA’s definition of local may change seasonally, or with the type of product, or special event. Local can be defined by a certain number of miles from the SFA, within the county, the state, or adjacent state(s), etc. Below are resources for procuring locally.
For more information on starting a Farm to School (F2S) program, visit the SNT F2S Webpage.
Sourcing Local Goods and Services
- Prime vendor (AKA commercial distributor)
- Direct to farmer
- School garden
- Farmer’s market or auction
- Food hub, coop, or aggregator
- Community garden
- USDA Foods, like DoD
- Direct to Processor
Identify Needs and Defining Local
In order to make a purchase, first identify your needs. Procurement terminology refers to this process as “creating specifications”. For example, what exact product do you need to purchase? It may help to ask a few basic questions like: How much do you need? When do you need it by? Do you need organic? What size or type do you need?
- Step 1: Conduct market research. If you do not know exactly what you are looking for, or what is out there, do some research. This process is referred to as “ Request for Information (RFI)”. This is similar to conducting a survey of what is available in your area. At this time, you are not buying the product or service, just collecting information to create your specifications and better defining your needs. For example, you may reach out to a few tomato suppliers or farmers to discuss the tomato products they offer (size, type, organic, quantity, season(s) of availability, etc.).
- Step 2: After you do your research, use the specifications developed during the RFI to request pricing. You may need to communicate further with suppliers to educate them on your specifications and the unique needs of the Child Nutrition Programs. When the specifications are clearly defined and understood, suppliers will be able to provide comparable pricing.
Example: Whole beefsteak heirloom tomato (or equivalent slicing tomato), medium size, 30 lb. case, estimated volume to purchase 15-20 cases per week during growing season.
- Step 3: Define local for your SFA. Your definition of local may change by product and season. For informal procurements like micro-purchase and small-purchase, keep the definition in mind when deciding who to contact for pricing. For formal procurements (IFB or RFP), include the definition as part of your written specifications. Review the resource below for more information on how to define local. The term "Geographic Preference" is used in formal solicitations. It is another way to "define local" when an SFA wishes to give an advantage to local sellers by assigning points for "proposals" or reduction in "bid price" for evaluation purposes.
Overview of Geographic Preference, USDA
Common Procurement Methods
Most SFAs utilize informal procurement to obtain local goods and services. Before deciding which method to use, estimate the value of your purchase and have your specifications defined. In short, the value of a micro-purchase is estimated by transaction and is the most flexible procurement method. Whereas, a small-purchase and formal procurement are typically estimated based on volume used over the course of a typical school year.
- Small-purchase (3 Bids and a Buy)
- Invitation for Bid (IFB)
- Request for Proposal (RFP)
- Geographic Preference, DPI SNT
Resources and Policy Memos
- USDA Resources for Procuring Local Foods
- Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection
- Procurement Geographic Preference Q&As – Part II SP 03-2013, CACFP 02-2013, SFSP 02-2013, USDA,10/09/2012
- Procurement Geographic Preference Q&As SP 18-2011, USDA, 02/01/2011
- Geographic Preference for the Procurement of Unprocessed Agricultural Products in the CNP SP 08-2010, USDA,11/13/2009
- Applying Geographic Preference in Procurement for the CNP - Updates SP 01-2010 CACFP 01-2010 SFSP 01-2010, USDA,10/09/2009
- Purchases of Locally Produced Foods in the School Nutrition Programs Memo #02-26, USDA Policy Memo, 05/22/2002
- Procuring Local Meat, Poultry, Game, and Eggs for Child Nutrition, SP 01-2016, CACFP 01-2016, SFSP 01-2016, USDA, 10/22/2015