Guide

Developed with input from an advisory committee and school food service directors like you, "Purchasing Michigan Products: A Step By Step Guide" includes useful information and practical tools on incorporating Michigan foods into your school meals program. The guide may be downloaded in its entirety here, or view the steps below to determine your next step to link to local food.

Advisory Committee:

Ruth Blackburn
Farm to School Coordinator
Food System Economic Partnership
Marla Moss
Child and Adult Care Food Program,
Grant Coordination and School Support
Michigan Department of Education
 
Beth Collins
Chef, Consultant
Local Plates, LLC
Jayme Priest
Food Distribution Consultant
Michigan Department of Education
 
Kristen Misiak
Food Service Director
Traverse City Area Public Schools
Paul Yettaw
Food Service Director
Lakeview School District

Funding:

Funding for this guide was provided by North Central Sustainable Agriculture Education and Research Graduate Student Grant Program and the C.S. Mott Chair of Sustainable Agriculture at Michigan State University.

Michigan Products: A Step By Step Guide

Follow these steps to incorporate Michigan foods into your school cafeteria. Communication, flexibility, and understanding risks and benefitsare keys to success!

Step 1: Get Started
Step 2: Build Community Connections
Step 3: Prepare and Distribute Bid Documents
Step 4: Evaluate and Award Bids
Step 5: Begin Purchasing Local Products!

Step 1: Get Started

Determine your interest and ability to purchase locally-grown products directly from farmers for your school meals program.
        Tool: Local Purchasing Assessment

Decide which Michigan products you would like to buy. It’s okay to start slow in the first year by substituting one or two products you typically use with locally grown items. You can build over time.
        Tool: Michigan Products and Seasonal Availability Charts

Contact your food distributors, locally grown foods also may be available through them.
        Tool: Food Distributors Linking Farms with Schools

Step 2: Build Community Connections

Find farmers in your area by using state or regional resources.
        Tool: Resources to Link with Local Farmers

Organize a farm to school meeting to share your ideas, gather support, and build enthusiasm from your school community. Build a farm to school collaborative. Invite farmers, food distributors, community organizations, teachers, school staff, and others who could be allies.

Incorporate local school food procurement into your school wellness policy or action items for your coordinated school health team.
        Tool: Sample Farm to School Language for School Wellness Policies

Step 3: Prepare and Distribute Bid Documents

Determine criteria for selecting vendors. Build a plan to evaluate farmers’ bids based on categories such as price, food quality, taste test results, dependability, delivery plans, flexibility, promotional or education programs, insurance requirements, growing practices, and food safety and/or sanitation standards.
        Tool: Sample Criteria for Selecting Vendors

Prepare a vendor information questionnaire. This questionnaire will help you identify whether and how closely a farmer meets your criteria for selecting vendors.
        Tool: Sample Vendor Questionnaire

Prepare a product availability and pricing form. Ask for information that is most important to you. For example, if you are going to serve apples as fresh, whole fruit, uniform color and size may be important. If so, indicate this on the product availability and pricing form (Form A) under condition/description. However, uniform color and size may not be important to you, depending upon your use for the product. Being flexible may increase the likelihood that a farmer will be able to meet your needs. In this case, use a simple, more open-ended product availability and pricing form (Form B).
        Tool: Sample Product Availability and Pricing Form A
        Tool: Sample Product Availability and Pricing Form B

Talk with local farmers to identify a mutually beneficially timeline for the bid process. Some farmers would like to begin this process early in the spring so they can plan their crops and plantings accordingly, but other may not want to submit bids until the summer when they are more certain of market prices and product availability.

Prepare a letter or notice of intent to purchase fruits and vegetables. If you can purchase your local products under the small purchase threshold through informal bid procedures, this letter or notice can be included with your other bid documents for local farmers to complete. Be sure to include your school or district’s requirements for payment and payment method in this letter or notice.
        Tool: Sample Letter/Notice of Intent to Purchase Fruits and Vegetables

Spread the word. Increase the likelihood that farmers will respond to your request for bids by posting your notice in the local newspaper, school newsletter, or other outlet where it will grab their attention. Include information about how farmers should get intouch with you and learn more.

Mail bid documents to interested farmers. Include your letter or notice of intent, vendor information questionnaire, and product availability and pricing forms as well as instructions for farmers on completing the forms and returning them to you for evaluation.

Step 4: Evaluate and Award Bids

Compare bids. You may use a point system based on a 100 point scale to evaluate bids. While price may earn the majority of points, other bid categories like variety available, freshness, and delivery schedule may be nearly as important to you. Identify bids that meet your selection criteria and determine products to purchase from local farmers.

Notify selected farmers of bid awards.

Visit the farms and/or meet in person with the farmers to determine your mutual needs. Be sure to discuss with the farmer your school or district’s standard payment method and requirements for payment.

Develop a written contract with farmers from whom you will purchase local products. Be sure the contract clearly describes requirements for quantity and quality of food, specifications and packaging, delivery, price, terms of payment, insurance requirements, etc.

Ask farmers to review and sign contracts before you place any orders.

Step 5: Begin Purchasing Local Products!

Congratulations!