Purchasing Local Food

Offering local, seasonal fruits and vegetables during the peak harvesting season ensures that children learn the benefits of enjoying foods that are fresh and tasty. Nutritious and visually appealing food draws more children to a site and ensures they have energy to participate in enrichment activities.
One creative strategy for improving quality and appeal is to develop menus that incorporate local dairy, fruit, grain, protein and vegetable items. Incorporating local ingredients can benefit farmers and ranchers as well as the local community. For much of Texas, bountiful summer harvests make it cost effective to incorporate local ingredients. When that economic benefit is paired with educational activities, it results in a win-win for sponsors, sites and children.
Young kids in line
 Locally sourced food items can be purchased directly from a farmer or rancher, from a cooperative group of farmers and ranchers working together, a contracted distributor or a farmers market. 

When ready to incorporate more local ingredients into summer meals and snacks, first look at the items you already purchase. There is a good chance many of them might be from Texas. If you order items from a distributor, ask your representative which items are from Texas and communicate your preference for local ingredients.

USDA Procurement Guide
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.

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.

Facts about Local Food in School Cafeterias

 Incorporating Local Products into Existing Purchasing

USDA Memos
This policy guidance provides additional information regarding specific aspects of procuring local foods for summer nutrition programs.

Example in Texas

Purchasing Local Food through a Contracted Distributor, Dallas ISD

Dallas ISD’s Food & Child Nutrition Services department has established a successful farm to school initiative, Harvest of the Month, highlighting a different Texas-grown fruit or vegetable each month during the school year. Harvest of the Month includes opportunities for students to taste test items, incorporating local items into menus, classroom activities and outreach to parents and community members. 

While working with the contracted produce distributor, nutrition team members identified an opportunity to extend efforts to purchase more local ingredients and take advantage of peak harvest season for several Texas fruits and vegetables, by continuing local purchasing efforts for meals served during the summer months for its Seamless Summer Option. 

Purchasing local fruits and vegetables through summer months allows Dallas ISD staff to continue connecting with students, parents and community members through education, experiential learning and outreach.

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: http://www.ascr.usda.gov/complaint_filing_cust.html, 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
Fax: (202) 690-7442; or
This institution is an equal opportunity provider.

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Texas Department of Agriculture

Commissioner Sid Miller

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