Finding and purchasing the right foods is an important piece of the school nutrition puzzle to ensure that you’re getting the healthiest foods available, meeting nutrition standards and looking out for your bottom line. Make sure to consider all aspects of your contract, such as distribution requirements, and that you’re staying within your program’s budget. Let us help!

Step 1: The Process of Purchasing

Purchasing all the ingredients you need to keep your school nutrition program running can be a complex process. Keep in mind that:

  1. Your menu should drive your purchases. It’s your job to find the right foods and beverages to complete your breakfast, lunch, snack, supper and summer recipes and offerings.
  2. You must buy those foods and beverages at a competitive price that works for your school or district’s budget.

Step 2: Competitive Procurement Process

A competitive procurement process should combine fairness and integrity and result in the purchase of high-quality foods and beverages at the lowest possible price. 

Solicitations should contain product specifications that are clear, concise and not unduly restrictive. They should also provide clear and transparent evaluation criteria for opening and evaluating bids and proposals and adequate time for responses from vendors.

Check out these resources to help you with the competitive process:

Step 3: Methods for Purchasing Goods & Services

There are two main methods for your school nutrition program to purchase goods and services: district purchasing and cooperative purchasing.

District purchasing issues solicitations for products/services through the district procurement process, while cooperative purchasing combines purchasing volume to increase buying power with other groups or agencies.

Benefits of cooperative purchasing include:

  • Increased buying power
  • Decreased administrative costs
  • Saving staff time and salaries

Explore both options and decide what’s right for your school and district.

Step 4: Finds the Right Foods

Plan healthy menus, find new recipes, browse compliant products ‒ and more with the Alliance’s Smart Food Planner. This new tool also allows you to create personalized product lists, save favorite recipes and learn new ideas from other school districts.

Step 5: Resources to Help

You don’t have to re-invent the wheel. Use the resources and support available to you through the Healthy Schools Program.

  • Join the conversation with your peers in the online community, School Nutrition, moderated by the Alliance’s National Nutrition Advisor Carol Chong
  • Check out Procurement for the 21st Century from the Institute of Child Nutrition, which is a resource designed to help School Food Authorities with all things related to procurement
  • Don’t forget about Farm to School: Check out Farm to School resources to learn about incorporating local and/or regional products into your school meal program
  • Follow the Healthy Schools Program blog for more information and access to resources about procurement

You’re now an expert on procurement! Next up: How to market your program and provide excellent customer service!

Talk with Our Expert

Carol Chong is one of our National Nutrition Advisors. By contacting her, you can ask questions, learn best practices and get started creating a healthier school environment.

Get to know Carol | Connect with Carol | @nutricook24


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