Sourcing Local Foods: Understanding Procurement Rules and Regulations Webinar

February 17, 2016 - Abby Harper, Aimee Haapala

Federal and state food procurement regulations can be tricky to navigate. Staff members from the MSU Center for Regional Food Systems’ Michigan Farm to School program and the Michigan Department of Education host this in depth webinar on proper procurement procedures for sourcing local food for school and early childhood food programs including strategies for successfully navigating the process.

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Sourcing Local Foods: Understanding Procurement Rules and Regulations Webinar slides

Webinar Transcript:

Abby Harper: All right. Hello, everybody. And welcome to our webinar today -- Sourcing Local Food and Understanding Procurement Rules and Regulations. Before starting, I just want to take care of a few housekeeping tips. In order to fully participate in the webinar, you need to be connected both to Adobe Connect as well as via audio. The audio connection information is there in the chat box on the lower right-hand corner. And please keep your phone muted throughout the presentation so that the audio is clear. So if everyone can put their phone on mute. We'll be doing questions today through the chat box at the lower right corner. So if you have any questions throughout, you can just type them in there and we'll try to get to them as it's appropriate. If we don't get to any by the end of the webinar, we can follow-up with you. But we do have a lot of material to cover today in a short amount of time, so we'll hold most questions until the end. So to quickly introduce you to our presenters today, I am Abby Harper, the Farm to School Specialist at the Center for Regional Food Systems. And with me here, I have Aimee Happala who is a Financial Analyst at the Michigan Department of Education. You'll hear our voices the most today. Additionally, we have some other friends from the Department of Education joining us. Jaime Malnar, Melissa Lonsberry, and Adrienne Davenport will all share a presentation at the end relevant to their programs. We also have Gary Slate who's in the Midwest Office of the USDA Food and Nutrition Services. He'll be on hand at the end of the call to answer any questions that we may not be able to. And as a reminder, please do mute your phones if you're calling in just to make sure we don't get too much feedback. I can hear a couple people sneezing, so please make sure to mute your phones. So just to give you some background for why we're doing this webinar today, every year in September in accordance with our MI Farm to School Grant Program -- which if you're not familiar with, you can find out about on our webpage. So every year in September, we do a round of training. And this year in September, we touched briefly on procurement, but we recognized that there was still a lack of clarity and confusion on the subject of procuring local foods for Farm to School Programs. We also had the opportunity with the Michigan Department of Education to do an intent procurement training earlier this month. And so we wanted to capitalize on that opportunity to share with your guys some information. So there will be three goals for this webinar today. First is to understand how procurement regulations apply to local purchasing initiatives. The second is to identify strategies and tools for purchasing from Michigan and/or locally for your school and early childhood programs. And you will leave the webinar able to properly apply procurement procedures to your local purchasing. I do want to emphasize that this webinar is not covering the topics such as developing menus that incorporate local foods or how to start planning for a Farm to School Program. This webinar is meant to guide you through the technical aspects of the procurement process once you've decided to purchase local foods and identify some areas of your menu where you could incorporate local foods. If you're interested in learned more about those other more planning aspects, I encourage you to check out some of the resources available at our website such as our Purchasing Michigan Products Guide and our Farm to Early Childhood Programs Guide. Those go much more in depth with some of those early steps of how to put products on your menu. And you can find all of those guides, as well as some other resources, at our webpage. And with that, I will pass it off to Aimee to talk about some procurement basics. 

Aimee Happala: All right. Thank you, Abby. And good afternoon, everyone. First of all, I'd like to start off with why are we discussing procurement and the regulations. The main reason for such is that [inaudible] the sponsors are accountable for the [inaudible] of poor nutrition program funds. They're funded by the federal government, and the state and local officials that run these programs are accountable to taxpayers. These regulations are to be used by program operators to provide reasonable assurance that the best buy is obtained. And failure to conduct proper procurement procedures may lead to unreasonable costs which are not allowed in the School Nutrition Program. So with that background in mind, we're going to go forward and speak about principles of good procurement. The main components of the procurement are full and open competition, fairness and integrity, and responsive and responsible vendors. And we'll dig into each of these three more in depth now. Full and open competition means that everyone is on a level playing field and has the same opportunity to compete. If the playing field is leveled, vendor participation is encouraged, the cost of the product and services will be lower in price, better-quality products and services will result, and this ensures efficient use of federal funds. Procurement procedures may never unjustifiably restrict or limit competition. The second component of good procurement is responsive and responsible vendors. Responsive vendors conform to schools' stated terms and conditions. And a responsible vendor can and will successfully fulfill the terms and conditions of the proposed procurement. Now the third component of good procurement is fairness and integrity. Good practices of fairness and integrity include using the procurement process to obtain high-quality goods or services at the lowest possible price. Developing a solicitation that contains specifications that are clear and not unduly restrictive. Publicizing the solicitation appropriately to the widest possible audience to [inaudible] full and open competition. Writing clear evaluation criteria that are not unduly restrictive. Allowing adequate time for respondents to prepare responsive bids or proposals. Ensuring transparency in the opening and evaluating of bids and proposals, and documenting the entire process. Also, procuring within the awarded scope identified in the solicitation. And overall transparency throughout the entire process is key -- maintaining clear, forthright, and out and the open.

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