Attention School Food Authorities! Free local food is available for your school meal programs through your local food hub from September 15, 2023 - June 30, 2024.
The Local Food For Schools (LFS) Program is a partnership with the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets and Vermont food hubs to provide local food to Vermont schools at no cost to the schools. This is a one-time program funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
What is it?
- Each School Food Authority (SFA) is assigned to a food hub and allocated a budget for LFS-eligible food purchases from that food hub.
- The SFA’s assigned food hub will make available the allocated amount as a line of credit at the food hub, which can be used to purchase food that meet the following criteria:
- Local or regional food, domestic, and minimally processed foods*
- All foods must be utilized in National School Lunch Program (NSLP) or School Breakfast Program (SBP) meal programs
How much funding is available for each SFA in Vermont?
- The SFA LFS Allocations and Food Hub Assignments document specifies the amount of LFS funds available for each SFA to purchase local food through their local food hub.
- The amount allocated to each SFA is based on enrollment data from the Vermont Agency of Education
- LFS allocations per SFA range from $1,000 to $13,400.
How does it work?
- Four food hubs are working together to collectively service SFAs statewide: Green Mountain Farm Direct (based in Northern Vermont), Food Connects (based in Southern Vermont), ACORN Food Hub (based in Addison County), and the Vermont Farmers Food Center Food Hub (based in Rutland County).
- Food hubs will contact each of their assigned SFAs to:
- Establish an account for the SFA, if the SFA is not already a food hub customer.
- Provide 1:1 support to SFAs to access and utilize the LFS credits reserved for their purchases of LFS eligible local food*.
- Take orders and schedule deliveries of local food to SFAs, paid for with LFS program funds.
- SFAs are encouraged to equitably distribute the food purchased with LFS funds amongst the schools in their SFA.
- Food purchased with LFS funding may only be served in the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program.
When can SFAs order the free local food?
- Food hubs will contact each SFA to help SFAs place their first order of LFS eligible food.
- If an SFA hasn’t yet purchased from its assigned food hub, the SFA will need to work with the food hub sales contact to get set up as a new customer. The timeline for this process may vary based on the food hub and it's proximity to the SFA delivery location(s).
- All food must be ordered between September 15, 2023 - June 30, 2024.
Where is the LFS funding coming from?
- The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets received funding from a USDA cooperative agreement grant to implement this project.
- This is a one-time funding opportunity for SFAs to get free local food, delivered by a local food hub, and paid for by USDA.
- Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets will pay the food hubs for the price of LFS eligible food ordered by SFAs, up to the allocation amount per SFA, as outlined in the SFA LFS Allocations and Food Hub Assignments document.
SFAs with Food Service Management Companies (FSMCs)
FSMC Orders LFS Food To Replace Components of Contracted Meal Service: There is language included in all FSMC contracts that the FSMC must pass through any discounts, rebates, or credits onto the SFA. In situations where an SFA has a FSMC, or a vended meal contract, the FSMC may use the LFS credits to order foods for the SFA’s nonprofit school food service. If the FSMC uses LFS credits to order food that will replace any components of the reimbursable meal that the FSMC usually provides, the FSMC will then need to include a credit to the SFA on their monthly invoice for the value of LFS foods received (this is similar to how USDA Foods is handled).
FSMC Orders LFS Food To Supplement Contracted Meal Service: Alternatively, if the FSMC is using the LFS foods to supplement the meal programs, instead of using LFS foods to replace any component of the reimbursable meal that the FSMC provides, the FSMC does not need to include a credit to the SFA on their monthly invoice for the value of LFS foods received.
For each LFS order placed, the food hub will send itemized (non-payable) invoice/records to both the FSMC and the non-profit SFA. The SFA can use this documentation from the food hub to track the FSMC's use of their LFS credits to ensure the LFS foods are supplementing the current meal program, rather than to replacing or discounting costs of the usual FSMC-provided meals.
Count LFS Purchases Towards Agency of Education Local Foods Incentive Grant Application
SFAs can count LFS "purchases" that meet the Act 129 Vermont Local Definition towards their local food purchases reported to the Agency of Education for the Local Foods Incentive grant.To count these purchases, the entire credit an SFA receives [see SFA LFS Allocations and Food Hub Assignments] must be included in the SFA's Financial Report. The amount spent on products that meet the Vermont Local Definition must be included in their VT Local Food Expenditures and the remainder of the allocation must be included in their Program Food Expenditures (excluding VT Local and Milk expenditures).
*LFS Eligible Food Must Meet the Following Criteria:
- USDA Definition of Local or Regional Food: Locally and Regionally Produced Food means food that is raised, produced, aggregated, stored, processed, and distributed in the locality or region where the final product is marketed to consumers, so that the total distance that the product travels between the farm or ranch where the product originates and the point of sale to the end consumer is at most 400 miles, or both the final market and the origin of the product are within the same state or territory.
- A note on the Vermont Local Definition: It is not required that all foods purchased under this award also meet the Act 129 Vermont definition of “local”, but products that do meet the local definition can be counted towards an SFA’s application to the Vermont Agency of Education Local Foods Incentive Grant (see above for more information).
- Domestic food products: Agricultural Commodity means a product grown, processed, and otherwise prepared for sale or distribution exclusively in the United States or its territories, except with respect to minor ingredients. Minor ingredients from nondomestic sources will be allowed to be utilized as a United States product if such ingredients are not otherwise: (1) produced in the United States; and (2) commercially available in the United States at fair and reasonable prices from domestic sources. The following ingredients are determined by AMS Commodity Procurement as not available at fair and reasonable prices and are waived from U.S. origin restrictions: (1) Vitamin A (Retinol Palmitate), (2) Vitamin D, (3) Carageenan (stabilizing agent), (4) Sorbic Acid (preservative), (5) Potassium Sorbate (preservative), (6) Rennet (coagulant), (7) Items excepted from the Buy American Act under FAR 25.104 Nonavailable Articles.
- Unprocessed or minimally processed foods: Examples of allowable food products include fruits and vegetables (including 100% juices); grain products such as pastas and rice; meats (whole, pieces, or food items such as ground meats); meat alternates such as beans or legumes, and fluid milk and other dairy foods such as cheese and yogurt. Foods in a wide variety of minimal processing states (e.g., whole, cut, pureed, etc.) and/or forms (e.g., fresh, frozen, canned, dried, etc.) are also allowable.
Foods that are generally understood to be significantly processed or prepared are unallowable. Examples of unallowable products would include baked goods such as breads, muffins, or crackers; prepackaged sandwiches or meals; other prepared and/or pre-cooked items that come ready-to-eat or that require no further preparation beyond heating (e.g., chicken nuggets, fish sticks, pre-made pizzas, etc.).
Questions? firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-585-6225
Funding for the Vermont Local Food for Schools Program was made possible by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service through grant AM22CPLFS000C010. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the USDA.