Sourcing Local Food

Sourcing Locally Grown Food

Local food plateLocal food procurement is different for each school based on the amounts of food needed, the location of the school and the seasonal availability of fresh, local foods. Sourcing locally can involve direct relationships with local farmers and producers, shopping at farmer’s markets or produce auctions, drawing from local DOD selections, working with regional produce distributors and aggregators, or working with primary or secondary distributors to locate regional or local items. The Illinois Farm to School Network has created a Mighty Mini training video, Local Sourcing, which provides information and insite for school districts considering, or expanding local or regional sourcing. Our videos are located under the Mighty Mini Video tab. You can also find a full list of local sourcing resources on our cafeteria programs page.

Use the tabs at the left to view resources for procuring local food.


Here is the PDF download for all materials from this presentation.


Have a resource that you’d like to add? Contact the network.

Procurement Resources

Here are some great materials from outside organizations on the topic of local food procurement. All of these resources have been vetted and provide useful information on how to add local foods into school food purchases.

USDA Farm to School

  • USDA Local Food Procurement Guide
    • This is specific to Illinois, and goes over the different types of bidding strategies and ways to bring local vendors into your current distribution service
  • Local Procurement Decision Tree
    • Includes information on the federal micropurchase threshold (a way to make small purchases without a bid) and how to decide whether to use informal or formal procurement methods
  • Farm to Summer
    • If you operate a summer meal site through SFSP, this is information on how to incorporate local food purchases into your program
  • Farm to School Resource Guide
    • Contains an array of resources from planning to sustaining your farm to school program, including guides on finding and buying local foods.

USDA Farm to School Factsheets

Other Resources

Where to Find Food

Use the following list of search engines, directories, and maps to locate sources of food grown near you:

Local Food Search Engine and Maps

A complete listing of directories, search engines and maps for local food in Illinois.

Band of Farmers

Includes a directory of Chicagoland CSAs (community supported agriculture) and great for locating food for ECE sites.

Buy Fresh Buy Local

Find farms, markets, and more in Central Illinois.

Eat Wild

Find a farm or ranch near you throughout IL on their map or scroll through the alphabetical list.


Find local food in the Chicagoland, Elgin, Decatur, and St. Louis areas.

IL Farmers Market Association

View a map of farmers markets throughout the state of Illinois; helpful for finding food for ECE sites and small districts.

IL Organic Growers Association

View a list of food producers that are members of the Illinois Organic Growers Association.

IL Vegetable Growers Association

A 6-page PDF of Illinois sources of vegetable food production.

Local Harvest

Locate farms, farmers markets, CSAs, co-ops and more near you by typing your location into the search bar.

Local Honey Source

View list of sources of honey produced in Illinois.

Orange Pippin

Illinois orchard directory. Use the map or enter your zip code to find nearby orchards.

The Mill at Janie’s Farm

An extension of Janie’s Organic Farm, the Mill is a source of local flour and grains located in Ashkum, IL.

Cahokia Rice

Did you know 80% of the rice consumed in the U.S. is grown here? The Gerard Family farm is growing rice for wholesale in southern Illinois!

Garlic Breath Farm

Our love for organic garlic, with it’s sweet and firey flavor, is what inspired us to start growing this very popular veggie. Although we started our journey in 2015, we see our farm as being one of the first that people think of when they think organically grown garlic. We are very big supporters of local and small business. We envision our organically grown garlic in local farmer’s markets, grocery, and restaurants in Elburn Illinois and surrounding towns!!

Planning the Menu

Incorporating local foods into the menu doesn’t have to be a challenge! With a solid plan, you’ll be able to create menus with ease and limit waste.

Schools that participate in the National School Lunch Program should incorporate local foods into their menus in ways that coordinate with the school nutrition guidelines.

There are many resources for food service directors to use when planning menu items that use local foods:

Fresh vegetable cups prepared for the National School Lunch Program at Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, Va.

Fresh, local vegetable cups prepared for the National School Lunch Program at Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, Virginia.

You can also check out our Mighty Mini Videos for guidance on using local foods in your menu:


Click here to download the materials from this presentation.


The Illinois growing season slows down considerably in the cold, winter months. If you’re wondering how you can extend local food items through the winter season, check out this presentation:

Click here to download the materials from this presentation.


Check out the history of school lunches in the U.S. and how you can join the movement back to from-scratch cooking in lunchrooms in this video presentation:

Clickhere to download the materials for this presentation.


If your school needs support, including:

  • Skills training for staff,
  • Reorganization of kitchens, serving lines and cafeterias,
  • Adding equipment and small wares,
  • Recipes and food production technical assistance,
  • Incorporating scratch cooking or fresh prep,
  • Preserving the harvest: processing & storing summer fruits and veggies,
  • Adding or updating salad bars,
  • And, much more!

Contact the Illinois Farm to School Network. We have the tools and technical assistance to assist you!

Cafeteria Campaigns

Healthy food marketing campaigns can include promotional/educational materials including posters, service line signage, morning announcement verbage and more. The Illinois Farm to School Network encourages schools to celebrate local foods on the menu or in taste tests with added fun and excitement. Why? When students find a sense of fun in the cafeteria, they are more likely to try new foods and there is less food waste. Promoting your farm to campaign will build excitement, interest and participation. Our Mighty Mini video, Marketing Farm to School, provides many ways to build the excitement in your campaign. You can access the videos on the Mighty Mini video tab.

The Great Apple Crunch is an example of a state-wide local food promotional campaign. In 2016, the IFSN will run a Harvest of the Month pilot program with five Illinois school districts. The Ilinois Harvest of the Month program is open to all school districts, feeding sites, early childcare, after school and summer programs and garden programs. This free program is open to all sites across Illinois.

Here are some materials from other states:

Salad Bars

Salad bars are a great addition to school lunch programs. Salad bars can be served as a complete meal with a grain and a protein/protein alternate option on the bar, or as the daily fruit and vegetable options to complete a meal. These bars are the perfect vehicle to increase veggie comsumption for the USDA required vegetable groups! 

Let’s Move! Salad Bars to Schools

This partnership between United Fresh, the White House, the Center for Disease Control, and others, helps provide resources for schools to install salad bars. Applications for School Districts can be found here, and information and a toolkit for parents can be found here.


Check out our Mighty Mini Video below titled Salad Bars 101. This video is chocked full of information and tools for creating school salad bars:

Click here to download all the materials from this presentation.