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Office of P-20 Education Policy
Child Nutrition Program Administration
89 Washington Avenue, Room 375 EBA, Albany, NY 12234
Phone: (518) 473-8781 Fax: (518) 473-0018

School Food Service Directors/Managers
Frances N. O'Donnell, Coordinator
Monday, July 21, 2008
Applying Geographic Preferences in Procurements for the Child Nutrition Programs

This memorandum provides information on a provision of the recently enacted Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-246) that applies to procurements in the Child Nutrition Programs.  Section 4302 of P.L. 110-246 amended section 9(j) of the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act (NSLA) to require the Secretary of Agriculture to encourage institutions operating the Child Nutrition Programs to purchase unprocessed locally grown and locally raised agricultural products. 

As amended, effective October 1, 2008, the NSLA allows institutions 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 Child Nutrition Programs, including the National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, Special Milk Program, Child and Adult Care Food Program, and Summer Food Service Program, as well as to purchases of fresh produce for these programs by the Department of Defense.

The law also applies to State Agencies which are making purchases for any of the aforementioned Child Nutrition Programs. While the statute permits institutions to apply a geographic preference to the maximum extent practicable and appropriate, it does not require institutions to purchase locally grown and locally raised agricultural products, or to apply a geographic preference in their procurements of these products. Moreover, States cannot mandate through law or policy that institutions apply a geographic preference when conducting these procurements, because the NSLA grants this authority directly to the institutions.

The institution responsible for the procurement has the discretion to determine whether and how a geographic preference meets its needs. Additionally, the procuring institution may define the area for any geographic preference (e.g. State, county, region, etc.). Geographic preference may only be applied to the procurement of unprocessed agricultural products which are locally grown and locally raised, and that have not been cooked, seasoned, frozen, canned, or combined with any other products. As specified in the Joint Explanatory Statement of the Committee of Conference, the Managers of the legislation used the term "unprocessed" to "preclude the use of geographic preference for agricultural products that have significant value added components. The Managers do not intend to preclude de minimis handling and preparation such as might be necessary to present an agricultural product to a school food authority in a useable form, such as washing vegetables, bagging greens, butchering livestock and poultry, pasteurizing milk, and putting eggs in a carton." (Joint Explanatory Statement, p. 107). Additionally, using a minimal amount of preservatives on locally grown produce may be needed for the purpose of preventing spoilage and would be acceptable. It is also important to note that all milk served in the Child 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 a geographic preference may be used to encourage the purchase of locally grown and locally raised products by enabling an institution to grant an advantage to local growers, 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 purchasing institution's responsibility to be responsible stewards of federal funds.

Please do not hesitate to contact me at 518-473-8781 if you have questions on these issues.

USDA Nondiscrimination Statement

In accordance with federal civil rights law and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) civil rights regulations and policies, this institution is prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex (including gender identity and sexual orientation), disability, age, or reprisal or retaliation for prior civil rights activity.

Program information may be made available in languages other than English. Persons with disabilities who require alternative means of communication to obtain program information (e.g., Braille, large print, audiotape, American Sign Language), should contact the responsible state or local agency that administers the program or USDA’s TARGET Center at (202) 720-2600 (voice and TTY) or contact USDA through the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877-8339.

To file a program discrimination complaint, a Complainant should complete a Form AD-3027, USDA Program Discrimination Complaint Form which can be obtained online at:, from any USDA office, by calling (866) 632-9992, or by writing a letter addressed to USDA. The letter must contain the complainant’s name, address, telephone number, and a written description of the alleged discriminatory action in sufficient detail to inform the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights (ASCR) about the nature and date of an alleged civil rights violation. The completed AD-3027 form or letter must be submitted to USDA by:

  1. mail:
    U.S. Department of Agriculture
    Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights
    1400 Independence Avenue, SW
    Washington, D.C. 20250-9410; or
  2. fax:
    (833) 256-1665 or (202) 690-7442; or
  3. email:

This institution is an equal opportunity provider.

Click here for Nondiscrimination Statement translations.