Community Food Systems

Procuring Local Foods

Last Published: 03/11/2019

From beef and bison in Montana to apples in Michigan and radishes in Rhode Island, local foods are on the menu. The resources on this page will help ensure child nutrition program operators have the resources and knowledge necessary to incorporate local foods into their day-to-day operations. While many of the resources featured here were developed with K-12 schools in mind, much of the information is equally relevant to early childcare facilities and summer feeding sites.

NEW: Federal Procurement Rules have changed

On December 12, 2017, President Trump signed the National Defense Authorization Acts (NDAA) into law, enacting immediate changes to federal micro-purchasing and simplified acquisition thresholds. The threshold for micro-purchases has increased from $3,500 to $10,000. The federal simplified acquisitions threshold has also increased from $150,000 to $250,000. These changes are effective immediately for federal assistance awards made in Federal Fiscal Years 2017 and 2018. The Office of Management and Budget memo is published online and available to the public.  Be aware that State or local rules may be more restrictive than Federal rules.

Please check the Child Nutrition Division Policy website for additional guidance to be released soon.

Finding, Buying, and Serving Local Foods Webinar Series

In 2014, the USDA Farm to School Program hosted webinars to showcase the variety of ways school districts can purchase local foods. The series starts with an introduction to basic procurement principles, and then walks participants through strategies and tactics for buying local foods. The entire series can be viewed online:

Fact Sheetsfact sheets

See more fact sheets here >

Policy Memos & Regulations

  • Local Foods and Related Activities in Summer Meal Programs (SP07_SFSP07-2016) This memo provides guidance on the incorporation of local foods and nutrition and agriculture-based activities into Summer Meal Programs. A growing body of research demonstrates several positive impacts of serving local foods and providing food education through Child Nutrition Programs, including increased participation and engagement in meal programs, consumption of healthier options, and support of local economies. Published November 12, 2015.
  • Procuring Local Meat, Poultry, Game, and Eggs for Child Nutrition Programs (SP01_CACFP01_SFSP01-2016) We’ve received a variety of questions related to purchasing local meat products and this memo outlines the food safety requirements for purchasing and serving poultry, livestock, game and eggs in child nutrition programs. Published October 22, 2015.
  • Child Nutrition Programs and Traditional Foods (TA01-2015) Through this memo USDA reinforces that many traditional foods can contribute towards reimbursable meals in CNPs. Published July 15, 2015.
  • Use of State Administrative Expense (SAE) Funds and State Administrative Funds (SAF) for Farm to School Related Expenses (SP28-2015) This memo clarifies and highlights the uses of State Administrative Expense (SAE) funds, both as initially allocated and when reallocated, and State Administrative Funds (SAF) for State-level coordination of farm to school activities related to the administration of the Child Nutrition Programs (CNPs). Published March 13, 2015.
  • Local Foods in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP11-2015) This memo provides guidance on the incorporation of local foods and agriculture-based curriculum in early childhood education and care settings. Published March 13, 2015.
  • Farm to School and School Garden Expenses  (SP06-2015) This memo clarifies the flexibility schools have in spending funds on school garden and farm to school efforts. Published November 12, 2014.
  • Procurement Geographic Preference Q&As Part II (SP03_CACFP02_SFSP02-2013) A memo addressing additional questions regarding application of the geographic preference option and other mechanisms for local procurement. Published October 9, 2012.
  • Final Rule: Geographic Preference Option – The final rule, published in the Federal Register, includes a summary, background, and final regulatory language, by program, for the geographic preference option. Published April 22, 2011.
  • Procurement Geographic Preference Q&As Part I (SP18-2011) A memo addressing questions regarding application of the geographic preference option. Published February 1, 2011.
  • School Garden Q&As  (SP32-2009) This memo clarifies, among other things, that funds from the nonprofit school food service account can be used to purchase seeds and other supplies for starting and maintaining school gardens. Published July 29, 2009.

cover imageProcuring Local Foods for Child Nutrition Programs Training

The Procuring Local Foods for Child Nutrition Program Facilitator's Guide and PowerPoint presentation is available on the Institute of Child Nutrition’s website. State agencies and child nutrition program operators can request the training as a half-day, full-day or two-day training. The Facilitator's Guide digests the material from the Procuring Local Foods Guide into a script, while also offering tips for conducting a successful training and incorporating interactive exercises.

Pilot Project for Procurement of Unprocessed Fruits and Vegetables

The 2014 Farm Bill directs USDA to conduct a pilot for the procurement of unprocessed fruits and vegetables using USDA Foods entitlement dollars. The legislation allows the use of geographic preference and encourages the procurement of local products. For more information about how states and schools can use this pilot, see the FNS pilot website and for more information about how vendors can participate, see the AMS pilot website.