Sourcing Local Food
Sourcing Locally Grown Food
Local 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 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
- Using DoD Fresh to Purchase Local Foods
- How to source local foods using the Department of Defense Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program for the purchase of fresh produce with USDA entitlement dollars.
- USDA Resources for Buying Local
- Ways in which the USDA supports local purchasing, and a quick guide to which USDA foods may be local your region.
- Geographic Preference: What it is and how to use it
- Links to procurement resources, and information on how to use geographic preference when issuing an invitation for a bid.
- Local Meat in Schools
- Increasing opportunities for small and mid-sized ranchers and fishermen to supply schools with local meat products.
- Farm to Preschool
- Tips for beginning and growing your farm to school program in early child care and education settings.
- 10 Facts about Local Foods in School Cafeterias
- Quick guide to local foods in schools.
- Selling Local Foods to Schools: A Resource for Producers
- Pathways for producers to connect with, and sell to, local schools and districts.
- How Cooperative Extension Agents Can Support Farm to School Programs
- Opportunities for Cooperative Extension professionals to get involved to connect local and regional farm products to school meal programs and assist with education.
- USDA Grants and Loans that Support Farm to School Activities
- Flow chart and resources for funding from the USDA to assist schools and farms to bolster farm to school activities.
- USDA Farm to School Grant Program
- Information on USDA grants and examples of previously funded projects.
Adding “Local” to Bid Language
Adding language for local and regional sourcing to bids for broadline distributors and food service management companies will help your district to obtain locally sourced foods for the menu. Here are resources to adjust your bid language and help you move forward!
- The Common Market: Advancing School Food Procurement Toolkit
- Advancing School Food Procurement: Driving Values-Based Purchasing through Competitive Solicitations” compiles existing values-based food solicitations from across the U.S. and lifts up best practices and insights from school food leaders, including school nutrition directors, food service management company representatives, USDA farm to school staff, and more.
- Institute of Child Nutrition Procuring Local Foods for Child Nutrition Programs Toolkit
- The guide highlights a variety of mechanisms schools can use to purchase local products while staying in accordance with federal procurement regulations, how to target local foods when conducting both formal and informal procurements, use the Geographic Preference option, and use the USDA Foods and DoD Fresh Programs to enhance local purchasing.
Where to Find Food
Use the following list of search engines, directories, and maps to locate sources of food grown near you:
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, 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:
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:
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:
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!
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 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!
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: