Nutrition and Wellness Programs

This page is designed to provide school food authorities (SFAs) with information regarding the proper procedures to be used in the procurement of contracts for foods and goods (not meal services contracts) in the School-Based Child Nutrition Programs. Numerous references and resources are also provided.

The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR)

  • 7 CFR Part 3016 Uniform Administrative Requirements for Grants and Cooperative Agreements to State and Local Governments
  • 7 CFR Part 3017 Governmentwide Debarment and Suspension (Nonprocurement) and Governmentwide Requirements for Drug-Free Workplace (Grants)
  • 7 CFR Part 3018 New Restrictions on Lobbying
  • 7 CFR Part 3019 Uniform Administrative Requirements for Grants and Agreements with Institutions of Higher Education, Hospitals, and Other Non-Profit Organizations

For further information, refer to the following questions and answers.

General Procurement Requirements

All procurement transactions must be conducted in a manner that provides maximum open and free competition.  Procurement procedures must ensure they do not foster noncompetitive practices between firms, do not create organizational conflicts of interest, and do not restrict or eliminate competition.  Procurement must not place unreasonable requirements on firms, require unnecessary experience, or establish unrealistic bonding requirements.  Cost plus a percentage of purchase is not an allowable system.  There must be descriptions of all products purchased and identical instructions provided to all potential vendors.

Formal standards of conduct should govern the performance of officers, employees, and agents in the award and administration of contracts.  These standards should provide that officers, employees, or agents should not solicit nor accept gratuities, favors, or anything of monetary value from contractors, potential contractors, or parties of sub-agreements.

Competitive Sealed Bid Requirements 

Federal regulations require SFAs receiving federal assistance to competitively purchase food, supplies, equipment, and services when the aggregate amount to be purchased is in excess of $150,000.

NOTE:  For public schools only, the Illinois School Code states that all purchases, except perishable food and beverages in excess of $25,000 (or a lower amount as required by district board policy), must be competitively bid and awarded to the lowest responsible bidder.  The $25,000 level refers to aggregate purchases on an annual basis.

The chart below details when formal competitive bidding must be conducted.

Milk or fresh dairy products In excess of $150,000
Fresh bread In excess of $150,000
Fresh produce In excess of $150,000
General groceries In excess of $150,000
Vended meals In excess of $150,000
Supplies In excess of $25,000
Equipment In excess of $25,000

The $150,000 amount is determined by examining the manner in which food has been purchased in the past. If using vendors that supply only one particular type of product, such as bread, milk, or meat, the competitive bid process must be implemented when the annual amount of purchases is in excess of $150,000 per type of product.

When multiple vendors, such as full-line vendors, supply various items such as canned, frozen, and dry goods, the total annual purchase amount for all the vendors must be added together. If this amount is in excess of $150,000 annually, the food must be competitively bid. However, if supplies, equipment, or any non-perishable food/beverage items are purchased from the full-line vendor in addition to the food/beverage items, the $25,000 threshold becomes applicable. In other words, if paper goods and/or cleaning supplies are purchased from the same vendor that supplies canned, frozen, and/or dry goods, a formal competitive sealed bid must be used if the total annual amount for all foods and items purchased is over $25,000 (instead of $150,000).

Competitive Sealed Bid Procedures

The following procurement procedures must be implemented to ensure compliance with federal and state regulations and statutes. The SFA should also seek the advice of their legal counsel regarding local regulations and policies.

Informal Bid Procedures

If the purchases do not exceed $150,000 (or $25,000) as described above, informal bid procedures may be used. The following steps should be part of the informal bid process:

Geographic Preferences

Federal regulations require procurements to be conducted in a manner that allows for free and open competition.  Therefore, a school food authority (SFA) cannot impose geographic restrictions on potential bidders, with one exception.  Geographic preference may only be applied to the procurement of unprocessed agricultural products which are locally grown and locally raised, and that have not been cooked, seasoned, canned, or combined with any other products.  De minimis handling and preparation are allowable in order to present an agricultural product to an SFA in a useable form as long as the product retains its inherent character.  Handling and preservation techniques that are permissible include: cooling; refrigerating; freezing; washing; packaging (such as putting eggs in a carton); vacuum packing and bagging (such as placing vegetables in a bag); drying/dehydration; applying high water pressure or “cold pasteurization”; butchering livestock, fish and poultry; pasteurizing milk; and adjusting the size through size reduction made by peeling, chopping, cutting, slicing, dicing, grinding, and shucking.

While a geographic preference may be used to encourage the purchase of locally grown and locally raised products by enabling SFAs to grant an advantage to local growers, this provision does not eliminate the requirement for procurements to be conducted in a manner that allows for free and open competition as noted previously.  In addition, while SFAs are permitted to apply a geographic preference for the procurement of locally grown and locally raised unprocessed agricultural products, SFAs are not required to do so.  The SFA has the discretion to determine whether and how a geographic preference meets its needs, but must keep in mind that for all procurements, whether formal or informal, bids/quotes must be obtained from a minimum of three prospective vendors.

bulletUSDA Fact Sheet on Geographic Preference PDF format new
bulletUSDA Procurement Geographic Preference Questions and Answers PDF format

Buy American

School food authorities are required to adhere to the Buy American provisions found in federal regulations (7 CFR Part 250.23). Actions an SFA should take to comply with these requirements are as follows:

For further information, view questions and answers.

Contract Certification Forms

Bid Protests

Any action which diminishes open and free competition seriously undermines the integrity of the procurement process and may subject an SFA to bid protests. SFAs are responsible for properly responding to protests and concerns raised by potential contractors. Pursuant to §3016.36(b) (12), SFAs must have protest procedures in place to handle and resolve disputes relating to their procurements and must in all instances disclose information regarding a protest to the Illinois State Board of Education Nutrition Programs Division.

FFVP Procurement Information

When purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables or other allowable items, you may use your current vendor as long as proper procurement methods were already followed AND the items being purchased were included in the procurement specifications. This includes terms by which a “new” item may be purchased. If the item being purchased was NOT included in the original procurement specifications, terms were not included for “new” item purchases*, and the purchase will not total more than $100,000, informal purchase procedures must be followed and quotes MUST be obtained from a minimum of three prospective vendors (which may include your current vendor). If the purchase will exceed $100,000 annually, you must use formal competitive procurement methods. Refer to the School-Based Child Nutrition Programs Administrative Handbook for details on determining the proper method of procurement.

*Since you cannot always foresee every single item that you may need during the course of a year or predict new items that may come on the market, you may include a method for handling new and other products in your original procurement specifications. For example, you may choose to use “vendor’s cost + fee/case”: $0.00–$10.00 + $1.00, $10.01–$20.00 + $2.00, and so forth. It is recommended that you research the marketplace to determine the best method for handling these types of purchases in your area.

Please contact ISBE staff at 800-545-7892 with any questions regarding procurement for the FFVP.

If schools have chosen to use the Department of Defense (DoD) Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, ISBE has conducted procurement for them. Schools using DoD can order using the FFAVORS system, but will need to set-up an account. Contact DoD FFAVORS representative, Jane Boyles at 215-737-5573 or

References and Resources