Nutrition and Wellness Programs
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.