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 to be directed to a PRU Specialist.

Questions:   Procurement Resources Unit | 800-952-5609
Last Reviewed: Monday, August 7, 2023
Related Content
Recently Posted in Nutrition
  • National Nutrition Month 2024 (added 01-Mar-2024)
    The CDE NSD encourages all program operators to celebrate National Nutrition Month and NSBW.
  • Summer EBT 2024 Announcement (added 01-Mar-2024)
    This communication provides information for school food authorities (SFA) about 2024 Summer EBT (S-EBT) benefit issuance and timeline, automatic eligibility determinations, SFA support, toolkit resources for households, and contact information.
  • State Agency Monitoring in the SFSP (added 01-Mar-2024)
    The USDA issued Policy Memo SFSP 06-2024: State agency Monitoring in the Summer Food Service Program.
  • New SFSP Management Bulletins (added 27-Feb-2024)
    The CDE has published five new Management Bulletins that impact the Summer Food Service Program.
  • SFSP Policy Updates Listening Session (added 27-Feb-2024)
    The CDE will host a Listening Session that will review changes to the federal SFSP regulations and how these policies will impact SFSP operations.

  • 2024–25 CNP Reimbursement Rates (added 27-Feb-2024)
    The U.S. Department of Agriculture issued the Summer Food Service Program 2024 reimbursement rates for breakfast, lunch, supper, and snacks. You can review these rates on the 2024 Child Nutrition Programs (CNP) Reimbursement Rates.
  • Updated USDA Guidance on the CEP (added 27-Feb-2024)
    This page contains updated USDA guidance on the CEP, including new policy memos.
  • Governor Newsom Secures Presidential Aid (added 27-Feb-2024)
    Governor Newsom Secures Presidential Major Disaster Declaration to Support Storm Recovery Efforts in San Diego
  • Quaker Issues Revised Recall Notice (added 21-Feb-2024)
    Quaker Issues Revised Recall Notice with Additional Products Due to Possible Health Risk.
  • Letter of Support: Healthy Meals Incentives (added 21-Feb-2024)
    The California Department of Education (CDE) would like to announce that School Food Authorities applying for the Healthy Meals Incentives Recognition Awards can request a letter of support from CDE.