Local Procurement Process

Local Procurement Decision Tree

While the term "local" cannot be used as a product specification in school food solicitation, there are many ways to purchase local products. Check out the USDA's Local Procurement Decision Tree to determine how local foods can be brought into the cafeteria with the district's next food purchase.

What are you trying to accomplish?

A school district’s goals will help shape how the district defines local, as schools can define local however they see fit.  See the USDA's Farm to School Planning Toolkit, designed for use by schools, school districts, and community partners, for more information on creating a vision and setting goals.

Having specific goals for local purchasing efforts will help schools craft a definition for local that works in service to the district’s goals.

Questions to Consider when Defining Local

  • What products do you want to source first, and where can you find them?
  • What is the vision for your local buying program and what types of producers can support that vision?
  • Is there state based legislation regarding local purchasing that you would like to be aligned with? Note that an SFA’s definition of local may differ from the state’s definition.
  • Do you want to bring as much local product as possible onto the menu as quickly as possible?
  • Do you want to couple local purchases with farm visits and educational activities with producers and suppliers?
  • What products are you already sourcing from your nearby area?
  • Does your distributor offer products from your state or region?

Define Local for Your School

There are many options for defining “local,” and definitions vary widely depending on the unique geography and climate where a school is located and on the abundance of local food producers and manufacturers. Many schools define local as within a certain number of miles, within the county, or within the state. Alternatively, definitions might include more than one state or discrete parts of several states (e.g., specific counties). There is no federal definition of local.

Some schools opt to define local differently for different types of products or for different seasons. For example, a school might decide that because there are so many fruit and vegetable producers within its county, local fruits and vegetables must come from within county lines.

  • Example:
    • Page County Public Schools, in Virginia, defines local using three-tiers:
      • Within the County
      • Within the Region (within 90 miles of Luray, VA)
      • Within the State
    • While a product that meets the first tier definition is preferred, a product that falls within any of the three tiers would be considered a local product.

For many school districts, fresh fruits and vegetables are an obvious starting place for local procurement, as fruits and vegetables can be served with minimal preparation.  Beyond local fruits and vegetables, however, are a wide variety of procurement options.  Local products may also include dairy; eggs; meat, poultry, and fish; or beans, grain, and flour.  Many school districts simply adjust existing recipes and menus to incorporate local products (e.g., schools in Montana replace beef with local bison and schools in California replace barley with local rice).  Often, school districts will develop new menus and recipes to reflect seasonally available local products and local food traditions.

It is important to remember that a district's definition of local can evolve and change as its program does.

Quote and Bid Documents

  • The total dollar amount of a purchase will determine the procurement method. Schools must adhere to additional school and county rules which may vary from a state’s requirements. If the county and school rules are different than state requirements, schools must adhere to the most stringent requirements. Procurement is not required when purchases are $3,500 or less.
  • Listed below are the State of Indiana requirements:
    • Informal Procurement (less than $150,000):
      • To use an informal bid template (this template is optional, not required) and to see an example, go to http://scnweb.doe.in.gov/Instruction/KaleTemplate.doc. (is a new link available?)
      • For additional information on using an informal bid process, go to http://dpi.wi.gov/schoolnutrition/procurement/3-bids. (is a new link available?)
    • Formal Procurement (more than $150,000):
      • Contact your State Agency for the process and proper steps. Your State Agency has local formal procurement documents that can help with this process.

The Indiana Farm to School Network has created these two pdfs with links and information on the following:


For more information regarding procurement, including webinars, guides, fact sheets, memos, and regulations, please see the USDA’s Procuring Local Foods webpage.

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