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School Nutrition Procurement


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Procurement is a multi-step, systematic, and complex process for obtaining quality goods, products, and/or services at the best possible price. Proper planning before beginning to prepare the procurement document for solicitation is critical and necessary for the School Food Authority to obtain high quality products and services needed at the lowest possible cost.

The steps in procurement for School Nutrition Programs (SNP) are: 

  1. Plan and determine cycle menus that meet meal pattern requirements for all grade groups
  2. Determine the products necessary to produce menus
  3. Forecast or estimate the necessary quantities of each product 
  4. Develop product descriptions or specifications and quality standards
  5. Determine product movement process that will help establish delivery schedules and inventory management and ultimately costs
  6. Estimate the total cost of the product procurement. This would mean contacting potential vendor for information on product availability, price, delivery costs, and other related costs such as records and order placement
  7. Select the proper procurement method and create solicitation documents
  8. Contact potential vendors to obtain competitive offers
  9. Evaluate vendor responses
  10. Award the contract to the most responsive and responsible vendor, and
  11. Manage the contract.

Methods and Documentation

Procurement Decision Tree – A flow chart to show components of a procurement plan. The procurement method to use is determined once the value of the procurement event is estimated. Below is a description of procurement methods, including steps to follow when using a method, and documentation to retain for each method.

All procurement transactions must be conducted in a manner that maximizes free and open competition. This means “all suppliers are on a level playing field” and have the same opportunity to compete. Procurement procedures must not unjustifiably restrict or eliminate competition.

Informal - Micro-purchases
Informal - Small Purchase
Formal - Sealed Bids and Competitive Proposals


Procuring Local Foods for Child Nutrition Programs - This USDA guide covers procurement basics, defining local, where to find local products, and the variety of ways schools can purchase locally in accordance with regulations. This guide incorporates information about micro-purchases, buying local foods for child care and summer meal programs, and real world examples. The guide also includes sample solicitation language, detailed geographic preference examples, and helpful resources.

2 CFR 200.317-326 Super Circular
7 CFR 210.21 NSLP Procurement
7 CFR 220.16 Breakfast Program
7 CFR 225 Summer Food Service Program

Procurement in 21st Century Resource Manual (2015) From the Institute of Child Nutrition, University of Mississippi, the manual provides general concepts about procuring goods and services to help school nutrition directors identify key considerations during the decision making process based on the complexity of implementing a cost-effective procurement system in School Nutrition Program.

Equipment Purchasing and Facility Design for School Nutrition Programs - From the National Food Service Management Institute, University of Mississippi, the resource gives school nutrition directors a competitive advantage as they approach equipment purchases and facility design.

The resource is divided into two sections.

  1. Introduction to Equipment and Design for School Nutrition Programs - This section has eight chapters with Chapter Seven - Getting Ready to Bid and Chapter Eight - Finishing the Equipment Purchasing Process dedicated to procurement of equipment from solicitation to start-up and training for preventive maintenance of equipment. It includes sample request for quotations/Invitation for Bid.
  2. Making Specific Equipment Choices - In eight chapters, focusing on specific types of foodservice equipment purchased by school nutrition programs.

Templates and Prototypes

The following templates and prototypes can be found in Download Forms on IowaCNP. All documents start with the prefix: NSLPPROC followed by a number and title of the form. 

  1. Procurement Decision Tree
  2. Application Packet - Written Procurement Plan and Code of Conduct template
  3. Written Procurement Plan and the Code of Conduct Handout 
  4. Micro-Purchase log
  5. Small Purchase (3 Bids and a Buy) procurement template
  6. Request for Proposal (RFP) for Prime Vendor (Food) template
  7. Attachment B - Official Pricing Spreadsheet - supplement to Request for Proposal template
  8. Invitation for Bid (IFB) template
  9. Public notification for RFP and IFB
  10. No Bid Vendor Statement
  11. Rebates, Discounts, and Credits Tracking Form
  12. Milk - Extended Cost Estimate Spreadsheet
  13. Buy American Exception Log template.