By Elizabeth Vaughan, CHIP Food Systems Coordinator

You’ve probably heard about school food in the news.   But what you don’t hear much about is the complicated bid process and procurement regulations districts navigate in order to get healthy, fresh meals into the cafeteria everyday. CHIP is supporting Child Nutrition Services staff in school districts across San Diego County in taking the steps necessary to navigate those complicated procurement regulations to get better food on school lunch trays.

On April 9, 2015, twenty eight farm to school stakeholders, IMG_0481representing 13 school districts came together for a training on procuring local produce for San Diego County school districts. Through the Support Services grant funding that CHIP has received from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Farm to School Program, CHIP was able to bring in two trainers from the USDA Food and Nutrition Service, Kacie O’Brien and Christina Conell.

Procuring Local Foods - Facilitators Guide

The training covered the following topics:

  • Importance of defining “local”
  • Procurement principles and methods
  • Opportunities for targeting local products
  • Local procurement in action
  • The basics of buying food through the National School Lunch Program
  • Strategies for local/regional sourcing

Attendees also heard from San Diego Unified School District’s food procurement specialist on their successful farm to school program.

Since the training, CHIP food systems staff have provided one on one technical assistance to two school districts (soon to be three) looking to incorporate geographic preference into their produce bids using strategies learned in the training.  The California Department of Education will be providing a similar training on local food procurement for school district representativesat the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency on Friday, February 5, 2016 from 8:30am-5:00pm.

Further materials on local procurement can be found on CHIP’s Food System website at–committees/schools-and-after-school/farm-to-school-taskforce.aspx