What is the Pilot Project
An opportunity for New York State schools and food producers!
The USDA Unprocessed Fruit and Vegetable Pilot Project encourages the use fresh fruits and vegetables in the National School Lunch Program by allowing locally-grown foods to be purchased with USDA funds annually allocated to schools. New York is one of eight states selected to participate in the Pilot Project, which was written into the 2015 Farm Bill. Schools may use pre-existing commercial distribution channels with farmers, growers, produce wholesalers and distributors.
Are you interested in putting more local, fresh and nutritious food on your school meal plate? Here’s why your school should participate:
- Increase fresh and unprocessed fruit and vegetable options in school meal offerings.
- Support your community and improving childhood nutrition.
- Develop relationships with local growers, distributors and processors on the USDA-approved vendor list.
New York schools put aside $3.5 million of USDA entitlement funding for use in the pilot project during the 2021-22 school year. Find out what New York State schools are already participating.
How to participate
1. Email [email protected] to set aside a portion of your USDA entitlement fund for the USDA Unprocessed Fruit and Vegetable Program.
3. Conduct a competitive solicitation.
- The USDA Pilot for Unprocessed Fresh Fruits and Vegetables does not invalidate the federal procurement law. Under this program neither USDA nor OGS has procured any product. Schools must continue to properly procure unprocessed produce. A geographic preference may be used to encourage the purchase of locally grown and raised products. This preference does not eliminate the requirement for procurements to be conducted in a manner that allows for maximum free and open competition. While the final rule of the geographic preference option states, when procuring local, unprocessed agricultural products, the discretion to define the local area for any geographic preference is left to the institution responsible for procurement, “local” must not be defined in a manner that unnecessarily restricts competition. Questions regarding the procurement process should be directed to the NY State Education Department or by phone at (518) 473-8781. In addition, the USDA Food and Nutrition Service website has extensive information regarding the procurement of local foods.
- Also, SFAs may use language in the solicitation which provides that in order for vendors to be considered responsible and responsive, the vendor must apply for and be placed on the Eligible Vendor List for the pilot project. Schools may opt to include language that requires vendors to have a third party audit in place such as GAP, Primus, or other GFSI benchmarked audit scheme.
- Directions on how to apply for AMS approval as an eligible vendor and how to be placed on the Eligible Vendor List should also be included in the solicitation.
- You will also need to include language regarding invoicing: An awarded vendor approved to participate in the USDA Pilot Project for the Procurement of Unprocessed Fruits and Vegetables will also deliver eligible orders to participants as per this bid; invoices for delivered products will reflect bid pricing and be submitted to the USDA, Agricultural Marketing Service for payment as described in the Eligible Vendor Requirements of the pilot.
- As always, remember to execute best practices including the clear documentation of all solicitations
4. Once you have obtained the successful bidder, check the USDA Approved Vendor Listing. Confirm that your successful bidder is on the approved vendor list.
5. Schedule delivery of your Pilot produce.
- When delivery is made to your school, you will obtain a copy of the invoice from the driver. This is your copy for reconciliation purposes and should not be sent to your business office for processing or payment. Vendors must be notified of any changes to invoices. Final vendor invoices submitted to USDA and your copy of the invoice must match. Failure to coordinate invoice changes with the vendor may impact your entitlement.
6. Verify your invoices.
- Schools will receive an email from their vendor within 24 hours confirming their delivery including any discrepancies at time of delivery. This information will be in the form of a spreadsheet/vendor template. Schools must verify their invoices by responding to the vendor by email within 24 hours. Should there be discrepancies at this point, schools will need respond to the vendor by email within 24 hours with any issues. The vendor will then correct any discrepancies and return a corrected invoice spreadsheet to the school by email. Vendors will then submit this confirmed invoice data to USDA AMS for payment. USDA AMS will make payment and email all parties including schools when payment is made to the vendor.
7. Reconcile Invoices and Monitor the balance of your Pilot entitlement.
- You should set up a spreadsheet containing, at a minimum, the following data: Vendor name; building name delivered to; invoice number; delivery date; produce received; and total cost. Utilize this spreadsheet to reconcile Pilot invoices against USDA data received monthly. Do not spend more than your Pilot set aside. Failure to properly monitor your pilot funds may put your other USDA food orders at risk and/or your ability to participate in the pilot program over upcoming school years. Payment for invoices submitted after your pilot set aside has been exhausted will be the responsibility of the school.
- This is a great opportunity for vendors such as farmers, growers, aggregators, food hubs and the like to grow and expand their local customer base.
- Vendors of all sizes - both large and small - have the opportunity to tap into an existing and expanding market.
- Over 800 New York State School Districts currently in the National School Lunch Program have USDA funding (over $80 million) to procure commodities through this pilot program.
- Fresh fruits and vegetables, minimally processed items such as apple slices, as well as IQF frozen locally sourced produce, are all eligible under this program for year-round purchasing.
- As soon as a vendor is placed on the USDA Approved Vendor list, they can begin to do business under the pilot program.
- USDA pays within 10 days of approving your invoice.
How to participate
- Determine your eligibility: See Vendor Requirements
- Apply: Complete the Vendor Application Forms
- Register with the Web-Based Supply Chain Management (WBSCM) system: Complete the WBSCM Vendor Registration Form and return to [email protected].
All eligible vendors must also be registered in the System for Award Management, which requires a DUNS number. Assistance for this process is available through the Procurement Technical Assistance Centers. Reach the SAM Help Desk at 1-866-606-8220.
- Market to Schools: Find participating schools and create contacts. Inform schools about the commodities you offer. Contact OGS for more information.
- Answer bid solicitations.
- Get Paid: After delivering your unprocessed product, complete the Vendor/SDA Reporting Template and send it to the school to check and sign that the information is correct. The school will return the signed template back to you. Next, log in to WBSCM and follow the Submitting Invoice Directions to submit the signed Vendor/SDA Reporting Template and supporting documents in order to receive payment of delivered unprocessed fruits and vegetables.
Note: Vendors with an eligible status may be subject to an audit by USDA, AMS personnel to confirm all requirements are in place. Please be aware when your GAP/GHP certificate expires as this will cause payment problems.
For questions regarding requirements, invoicing, or general information please contact Ms. Carrie Alexander at 1-816-926-6633, or [email protected]
Farm to School in New York
The New York State Farm to School Program was created to connect schools with local farms and food producers to strengthen local agriculture, improve student health, and promote regional food systems awareness. The Farm to School Program is managed by the New York State Department of Agriculture & Markets.