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3 peas in a pod

Procurement is the multi-step process used to obtain goods or services. Purchases made with the school Food Service Fund (Fund 21), must comply with all federal, state and local procurement regulations as applicable.Schools must comply with2 CFR 200 and USDA Program regulations (7 CFR Part 210, Part 215, Part 220 and other federally fund programs), guidance and instructions. State law, regulations and policies that are not in conflict with Federal requirements; and Local law, regulations and policies that are not in conflict with Federal requirements.

Buy American Provision

The William F. Goodling Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act of 1998 require school food authorizes to purchase, to the maximum extent practicable, domestic commodity or product. Domestic commodity or product is defined as an agricultural commodity that is produced in the United States and a food product that is processed in the United States using substantial agricultural commodities that are produced in the United States. More information and sample contract language can be found in SP 38-2017 Compliance with and Enforcement of the Buy American Provision in the National School Lunch Program (PDF)

Exceptions to the Buy American provision should be used as a last resort; however, an alternative or exception may be approved upon request. Exceptions include:

  1. The product is not produced or manufactures in the U.S in sufficient and reasonable available quantities of a satisfactory quality; or
  2. Competitive bids reveal the costs of a U.S. product are significantly higher than the non-domestic product.

Limited exceptions to the Buy American Provision allow for the purchase of products not meeting the “domestic” standard. Before using an exception, alternatives must be considered:

  1. Are there other domestic sources for this product?
  2. Is there a domestic product that could be easily substituted, if the non-domestic product is less expensive?
  3. Am I soliciting bids for this product at the best time of year? If I contracted earlier or later in the season, would prices and/or availability change?

To be considered for the alternative or exception, the request must be submitted in writing to a designated official, in advance of delivery. Requests should include:

  • Alternative substitute (s) that are domestic and meet the required specifications:
    • Price of the domestic food alternative substitute (s); and
    • Availability of the domestic alternative substitute (s) in relation to the quantity ordered.
  • Reason for exception:  limited/lack of availability or price (include price):
    • Price of the domestic food product; and
    • Price of the non-domestic product that meets the required specification of the domestic product.

Buy American Provision Exception Worksheet (PDF)

​Methods of Procurement

The appropriate procurement method to use depends on the dollar amount of the expected purchase. School food service staff should evaluate what goods or services are needed and for how long, and determine which procurement method to use based on the estimated dollar value of the purchase. All procurement must be conducted in a manner that maximizes free and open competition.

  • For example, school food service staff should evaluate their menus to determine what food products will be needed throughout the school year, and about how much of each product will be ordered. Using that information, the school food service staff would be able to estimate the total cost of their food products for the school year, and make a decision on what procurement method to use to purchase them.
  • Tip: For frequent purchases made to the same vendor (example: your prime vendor for food), the school food service staff should estimate the total dollar value of the whole school year, not each individual purchase. This is because the contract length is typically the school year, not week to week. Other purchases that are a one-time purchase or a specific duration (example, three months) may be evaluated differently.

Micro-Purchases (<$10,000 per transaction)

  • A micro-purchase is defined as a purchase where the aggregate dollar value does not exceed $10,000 (per purchase).
  • To meet the requirement for competition, purchases should be distributed equally among qualified suppliers with reasonable prices (to the extent practicable).
  • Purchase prices of goods must be reasonable based on research, experience, purchase history, or other information; and this documentation should be kept on file.
    • * USDA updated micro-purchase regulations in November 2020 to allow sponsors to self-certify a micro-purchase threshold of up to $50,000.  If your district chooses to update your micro-purchase threshold, make sure your district procurement policies are also updated to maintain compliance. This self-certification must be done annually, and include a justification, clear indication of the new threshold, and supporting documentation of any of the following:
      • A qualification as a low-risk auditee, in accordance with the criteria in 2 CFR 200.520;
      • An annual internal institutional risk assessment to identify, mitigate, and manage financial risks; or
      • For public institutions, a higher threshold consistent with State law (not applicable at this time).

Small/Informal Purchases ($10,000 to $250,000 OR most restrictive threshold)

  • The federal small purchase threshold (Simplified Acquisition Threshold) is $250,000; however, your district/LEA may have a more restrictive threshold. If so, the most restrictive threshold must be followed.
    • Tip: there may NOT be a different small purchase threshold for federal vs. non-federal purchases. The SFA and LEA must follow one consistent procurement policy.
    • Small Purchase Checklist (PDF)
  • For purchases that do not exceed the small purchase threshold, price or rate quotations may be used.
    • Quotes may be verbal or written, but must be documented.
    • Public notice is not required.
    • Award the contract (purchase) to the lowest price from a responsible bidder who submits a responsive bid.
    • Documented quotes and receipts.
  • *If your district updates its micro-purchase threshold, the lowest value of the small purchase threshold should be replaced with the amount your district has self-certified for micro-purchases 

Procurement by Noncompetitive Proposals (sole source)

Noncompetitive procurement may only be used when one or more of the following circumstances apply:

  • The item is available only from a single source;
  • The public exigency or emergency for the requirement will not permit a delay resulting from competitive solicitation;
  • The CDE Office of School Nutrition expressly authorizes noncompetitive proposals in response to a written request from the SFA.
  • After solicitation of a number of sources, competition is determined inadequate.
  • Noncompetitive Procurement Guidelines (PDF)

​Written Procurement Policy and Standards of Conduct

Procurement Policy 

Procurement Plan Template (DOC)

The SFA/LEA must maintain written policies and procedures that reflect applicable federal, state, and local regulations. These policies should include:

  • The procurement methods to be used;
  • A requirement that costs incurred must be necessary and cost-effective;
  • A requirement that procurement avoids the acquisition of unnecessary or duplicative items;
  • All procurement transactions must provide full and open competition;
  • A requirement that the SFA/LEA must maintain records sufficient to detail the history of procurement
  • Procedures for evaluation of proposals, including procedures for the use of the market basket cost analysis method if applicable;
  • A requirement to conduct a cost or price analysis for all formal bids and/or contract modifications
  • Steps that the SFA/LEA will take to assure that small, minority, and women’s business enterprises and labor surplus firms are used when possible.

Standards of Conduct

The LEA/SFA must maintain written standards of conduct covering conflicts of interest and governing the actions of its employees engaged in the selection, award, and administration of contracts. These standards must:

  • Prohibit soliciting or accepting gratuities, favors, or anything of monetary value from contractors or parties of subcontracts;
  • Include disciplinary actions for violations of the policy

The written standards of conduct may be included in the written procurement policy or may be maintained in a separate policy.

Procuring Local Foods

Capital Equipment Purchases and Approval Procedures

If a School Food Authority plans to purchase Capital Equipment using Food Service (Fund 21) funds, Capital Equipment approval purchases must be followed: 

Capital Equipment is defined by Federal regulations as tangible personal property (including information technology systems) having a useful life of more than one year and a per-unit acquisition cost which equals or exceeds the lesser of the capitalization level established by the SFA/LEA for financial statement purposes, or $5,000.00. 

Capital Equipment Approval Procedures: 

Step 1: Complete the Equipment Purchase Approval Tree (XLS) to determine if the equipment purchase is allowable and if the equipment is on the Prior Approved List. 

  • If the equipment is allowable and on the prior approved list, keep the Approval Tree for your records. The SFA may purchase the equipment and does not need further approval. 

Step 2: If the equipment is allowable but it is not on the Prior Approved List, CDE must approve the equipment before it can be purchased by the SFA. Complete the Capital Equipment Approval Form for CDE approval. Click here for more information on Equipment Grants

SP31 - 2014 State Agency Prior Approval Process for School Food Authority (SFA) Equipment Purchases (PDF)

For questions, contact or Jenny Herman at or 720-812-3119.