Farm to School — Tools for Schools


All contracting entities participating in Federally assisted meal programs must follow appropriate purchasing guidelines when incorporating farm to school initiatives into school nutrition programs. To access the Texas Department of Agriculture's National School Lunch Program Administrator's Reference Manual (ARM), please go here. For a full list of USDA procurement resources, please go here.

Defining Local Decision Tool
USDA expressly grants the authority for entities participating in Child Nutrition Programs and purchasing local food items with federal funding to define local, as long as procurement guidelines are followed.  This means that as a NSLP, CACFP, SFSP, or SSO participant you have the authority to define local.  This tool will walk you through two questions that will help you identify a definition of local based on your goals.

Procurement rules must always be followed when making purchases using federal Child Nutrition funds. Free, open competition must be maintained through all procurement processes, and you must document how you are defining local for each applicable purchase. Competition cannot be restricted by a narrow definition of local. Always reach out to your local Education Service Center (ESC) with any questions.

Local Procurement Decision Tree
USDA released this resource offering a series of yes/no questions to help identify the appropriate procurement method to use when buying local. The tool also offers tips for how to source local items.

Geographic preference
Institutions receiving USDA school nutrition program funds can apply an optional geographic preference in the procurement of unprocessed locally grown or locally raised agricultural products. It is important to remember that while a geographic preference may be used to encourage the purchase of local products, all procurements must be conducted in a manner that allows for maximum free and open competition.

Please review USDA’s Geographic Preference memo, Frequently Asked Questions- Part I and Frequently Asked Questions- Part II for additional information.

Procuring Local Foods for Child Nutrition Programs
This USDA guide covers the basics of procurement. Find out how to define local, where to find local products, and how schools can purchase locally in accordance with regulations. Plus, the guide provides sample solicitation language, detailed geographic preference examples and helpful resources.

U.S. Grade Standards for fresh fruit and vegetables

U.S. Grade Standards provide uniform language for describing the quality and condition of  commodities in the marketplace. This guide will provide direction for incorporating U.S. Grade Standards into your procurement documents.

USDA Farm to School Program Fact Sheets
USDA's Farm to School Program has released several fact sheets that may serve as an excellent resource.

Farm to School at USDA
Farm to School Resources
10 Facts about Local Food in Schools
USDA Foods: A Resource for Buying Local
Using DoD to Buy Local
Geographic Preference: What It Is and How To Use It

Texas-Originating USDA Foods Report

Five Facts about Local Food in School CafeteriasFive Facts About Local Foods in Schools Cafeterias
This TDA-developed resource addresses some of the common questions about incorporating local foods into school menus. The tool helps identify methods of procuring local items following application regulations.

Incorporating Local Products into Existing PurchasingIncorporating Local Products into Existing Purchasing
Tips to Successfully Purchase Local Foods from a Distributor: Purchasing local food items from a distributor that sources local products might be a good fit for your program operation. Use this resource to evaluate options for incorporating local products into your meal programs through contracted vendors.

Purchasing Local Products through Food Distribution Programs for SchoolsPurchasing Local Products through Food Distribution Programs for Schools
Maximize school food service funds and provide fresh, local options for your students by participating in the Department of Defense Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (DoD Fresh), Department of Defense Farm to School Program (DoD Farm to School)  and USDA Foods Program.

Assistance available in English and Spanish. Please call 877-TEX-MEAL (877-839-6325) for help.

In accordance with Federal civil rights law and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) civil rights regulations and policies, the USDA, its Agencies, offices, and employees, and institutions participating in or administering USDA programs are prohibited from discriminating based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability, age, or reprisal or retaliation for prior civil rights activity in any program or activity conducted or funded by USDA.

Persons with disabilities who require alternative means of communication for program information (e.g. Braille, large print, audiotape, American Sign Language, etc.), should contact the Agency (State or local) where they applied for benefits. Individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing or have speech disabilities may contact USDA through the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877-8339. Additionally, program information may be made available in languages other than English.

To file a program complaint of discrimination, complete the USDA Program Discrimination Complaint Form, (AD-3027) found online at:, and at any USDA office, or write a letter addressed to USDA and provide in the letter all of the information requested in the form. To request a copy of the complaint form, call (866) 632-9992. Submit your completed form or letter to USDA by:

U.S. Department of Agriculture
Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights
1400 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, D.C. 20250-9410

This institution is an equal opportunity provider.

Texas Department of Agriculture

Commissioner Sid Miller