Skip to main content
California Department of Education Logo

Applying Geographic Preferences in Procurement


Nutrition Services Division Management Bulletin

Purpose: Policy, Beneficial Information

To: School Nutrition Program Sponsors

Number: USDA-SNP-13-2009

Attention: Food Service Director, Business Official, District and County Superintendents

Date: August 2009

Subject: Applying Geographic Preferences in Procurement

References: National School Lunch Act, 42 United States Code, Section 1758(j); United States Department of Agriculture Policy Memo-SP-30-2008


This Management Bulletin provides information on a change in federal law that encourages School Food Authorities (SFAs) operating the School Nutrition Programs to purchase unprocessed, locally grown and locally raised agricultural products.

As amended, the National School Lunch Act (NSLA) allows SFAs receiving funds through the Child Nutrition Programs to apply a geographic preference when procuring unprocessed, locally grown or locally raised agricultural products. This applies to operators of all of the School Nutrition Programs, including the National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, and Special Milk Program.

While the statute permits SFAs to apply a geographic preference to the maximum extent practicable and appropriate, it does not require them to purchase locally grown and locally raised agricultural products, or to apply a geographic preference in their procurements of these products. Moreover, states cannot require through law or policy that SFAs apply a geographic preference when conducting these procurements, because the NSLA grants this authority directly to SFAs.

The SFA responsible for the procurement has the discretion to determine whether and how a geographic preference meets its needs. Additionally, the procuring SFA may define the area for any geographic preference (e.g., state, county, region, etc.).

Geographic preference may only be applied to the procurement of agricultural products that:

  • Are unprocessed
  • Are locally grown and locally raised
  • Have not been cooked, seasoned, frozen, canned, or combined with any other products

The term “unprocessed” refers to agricultural products that do not have significant value added components. Unprocessed agricultural products may include:

  • Those that require minimal handling and preparation that might be necessary to present an agricultural product to a sponsor in usable form, such as washing vegetables, bagging greens, butchering livestock and poultry, pasteurizing milk, and putting eggs in a carton
  • A minimal amount of preservatives on locally grown produce, which may be needed for the purpose of preventing spoilage

It is also important to note that all milk served in the School Nutrition Programs must be pasteurized and meet State and local standards. Pasteurized milk is the only dairy product for which geographic preference may be applied.

While an SFA may use a geographic preference to encourage the purchase of locally grown and locally raised products, this provision does not eliminate the requirement for procurements to be conducted in a manner that allows for free and open competition, consistent with the sponsor’s responsibility to be responsible stewards of federal funds.

Contact Information

If you have any questions regarding this subject, you may contact the Procurement Resources Unit (PRU) by email at SFSContracts@cde.ca.gov to be directed to a PRU Specialist.

Questions:   Procurement Resources Unit | 800-952-5609
Last Reviewed: Monday, February 28, 2022
Related Content
Recently Posted in Nutrition
  • National Nutrition Month Celebration (added 02-Feb-2023)
    This posting is a letter from Kim Frinzell, Division Director encouraging and providing ideas for National Nutrition Month Celebrations.
  • Conagra Brands Canned Meat and Poultry Recall (added 02-Feb-2023)
    Conagra Brands Recalls Canned Meat and Poultry Products Due to Possible Packaging Defect.
  • Taste of CA: Recipe Standardization Workshop (added 02-Feb-2023)
    Announcement of the Taste of CA Challenge Recipe Standardization workshop schedule for Spring 2023. This training provides steps to preparing a standardized recipe using locally grown ingredients.
  • CNAC Agenda for March 7, 2023 (added 30-Jan-2023)
    Meeting agenda for the State Superintendent of Public Instruction Child Nutrition Advisory Council (CNAC).
  • Action: 2023–24 FFVP Request for Applications (added 27-Jan-2023)
    The CDE NSD announces a grant opportunity for elementary schools to participate in the FFVP. The FFVP grant period is July 1, 2023–June 30, 2024. All eligible agencies, both current FFVP grantees and new applicants, must respond online to this RFA.

  • Outreach: 2023–24 FFVP Request for Applications (added 27-Jan-2023)
    The CDE NSD announces a grant opportunity for elementary schools to participate in the FFVP. The FFVP grant period is July 1, 2023–June 30, 2024. All eligible agencies, both current FFVP grantees and new applicants, must respond online to this RFA.
  • ISNPA Webinar: Food Distribution Program Part 2 (added 20-Jan-2023)
    Introduction to School Nutrition Program Administration (ISNPA) webinar series for local school nutrition directors, managers, and nutrition staff. Food Distribution Program Part 2 training will be offered on February 7, 2023, at 2:00 p.m.
  • Earned Income Tax Credit Information Act (added 19-Jan-2023)
    Earned Income Tax Credit information for school nutrition program sponsors.
  • USDA Foods Available List for SY 2023–24 (added 13-Jan-2023)
    The USDA recently published the USDA Foods Available List and the USDA Foods Processor Material Prices for School Year 2023–24.
  • State of Emergency Declaration (added 05-Jan-2023)
    State of Emergency Declaration Due to Winter Storms.