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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
Child Nutrition Program Administration
Thursday, October 28, 2021
Options and Flexibilities in Response to Supply Chain Issues
Original memo dated July 2, 2021.  Guidance has been added to the end of this memo.

The Child Nutrition Program Office is aware that School Food Authorities (SFAs) may be experiencing challenges regarding procuring distributors and receiving bid responses in preparation for the 2021-2022 school year, and that this causes great concern about the ability to acquire needed items.

This guidance outlines options available to SFAs encountering these difficulties.

Emergency Noncompetitive Procurements

SFAs may use the regulatory authority found in federal procurement regulations at 2 CFR 200.320(c)(3), which allows operators to use the emergency noncompetitive proposal procurement method to procure food and supplies and to negotiate a new one-year contract for school year 2021-2022 when competition is deemed inadequate or impossible due to public exigency or emergency.

SFAs may utilize this provision if they determine that current emergency circumstances exist. When there are supply chain disruptions from school closures or other COVID-19 impacts, this provision in federal regulations allows SFAs to use a noncompetitive solicitation, from one or more sources, to ensure students continue to receive meals.

Office of General Services (OGS) Centralized Contracts

Consistent with federal procurement regulations at 2 CFR 200.320, SFAs must use the appropriate procurement method to solicit for bids or obtain price quotes. SFAs may consider prices in an OGS centralized contract as one price source. However, if the SFA’s solicitation does not result in obtaining bids or price quotes, the SFA may purchase from the OGS centralized contract. SFAs must maintain documentation of their required solicitation to obtain bids/prices.

Meal Pattern Waiver

USDA has provided the Nationwide Waiver to Allow Specific School Meal Pattern Flexibility for the 2021-2022 school year. The flexibilities outlined in this waiver are available for SFAs operating the National School Lunch Program/School Breakfast Program or electing the Seamless Summer Option during the 2021-2022 school year and are meant to be used in circumstances when it is not possible for the SFA to meet meal pattern requirements. If supply chain issues cause an inability to meet specific aspects of the required meal pattern, this waiver may be allowed to waive the following requirements:
  1. the dietary Specification for Sodium;
  2. that all grains offered must be whole-grain rich;
  3. that for pre-schoolers, at least one serving per day, across all eating occasions, must be whole grain-rich;
  4. to offer a variety of vegetables from the vegetable subgroups;
  5. to offer a variety (at least two different options) of fluid milk;
  6. that low-fat milk must be unflavored; and
  7. to plan menus and offer food components for specified age/grade groups.
To utilize this waiver, SFAs must elect the waiver on the Child Nutrition Management System, provide a targeted and justified explanation of the use of the waiver and must receive prior approval.

Small Purchases and Micro-Purchases

When the value of the purchase is estimated at less than or equal to the small purchase threshold, informal procurement methods may be followed. Since thresholds are established at the federal, State, and local levels, it is important that SFAs always use the most restrictive threshold in determining a procurement method.

SFAs may utilize the small purchase and the micro-purchase methods of procurement throughout the school year when needed, as appropriate. These methods can be used to make informal purchases from vendors or may be used if secondary purchases are needed for items not included or bid on through formal procurement methods.

Additional information on the methods of procurement can be found here: Guidance on Procurement Methods: Thresholds UPDATED.

Group Procurement

Small and rural districts may be especially impacted by supply chain issues. Multiple SFAs may collectively procure to increase their purchasing power. This can be done through cooperatives or other group procurement methods. Refer to USDA memorandum SP-05-2017 Q&A: Purchasing Goods and Services Using Cooperative Agreements, Agents, and Third-Party Services for more information.

Other Options

Depending on the severity of supply chain issues and the individual circumstances of the SFA, working with SFA administration and/or counsel may be beneficial.

Please contact your Child Nutrition Program Representative for specific questions or concerns regarding situations of supply chain issues and resolve. As a reminder, Buy American requirements remain applicable to all purchases pertaining to Child Nutrition Program meals and SFAs are required to maintain documentation of all procurement.


Tips For Navigating Supply Chain Disruptions: No Kid Hungry

Supply Chain Disruption in School Cafeterias: School Nutrition Association


Questions and Answers for Child Nutrition Programs Emergency Procurement Due to Supply Chain Disruptions: USDA FNS

**Planning for a Dynamic School Environment: USDA FNS

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