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
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
specifications in writing;
- Identify sources eligible, able, and willing to provide
- Contact at least three sources;
- Evaluate bidders’ response to your written
- Determine most responsive and responsible bidder at
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).
following steps are
typically involved in a formal procurement:
- Develop solicitation
• Geographic preference points may be incorporated
scoring criteria for unprocessed local grown
- Publicly announce
- Evaluate bidders using
established scoring criteria in solicitation;
- Providers of locally
grown or raised unprocessed agricultural products receive
extra points in scoring; and
- 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
For more information about the procurement requirements of the
Child Nutrition Programs visit
USDA Procurement Regulations.
See Geographic Preference Option for more
information on this rule.
Also, see Frequently Asked Questions
for common questions related to the Child Nutrition Programs
procurement methods and the geographic preference option.