Americans have taken greater interest in what they eat and where it’s from to the point where fast food restaurants now post calorie counts on menu items, and grocers (even nationwide chains) tout locally produced, farm-fresh goods. People recognize the effects of fresh, healthy food on their health.

In addition, locally produced food supports local economies. State and local officials are keenly interested in healthy eating habits as well as strong local economic growth and cost savings. The end result is an increase in state, local and education (SLED) government bid & RFP opportunities that emphasize locally grown foods.

Governments Emphasizing Going Local

In 2011, then New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg set up guidelines requiring city agencies to give preference to farmers and producers based in the Empire State in order to provide healthy, fresh and delicious food that is sustainably produced and transported. City contract solicitations worth more than $100,000 for food or food-related services, such as catering, need to have a preferential provision, as do solicitations for social services through which a public entity would purchase more than $100,000 of food annually.

As a result, city agencies purchased roughly $5.49 million worth of food from New York State sources in 2012.

In the Midwest, Illinois is another state supporting its local farmers and food suppliers. The Illinois General Assembly passed legislation several years ago and metropolitan communities are using more local food suppliers. Along with better food, area suppliers can create a better economic climate:

Sustainable local food systems increase economic vitality, community livability, and regional resiliency … By producing more of the food we consume locally, we keep money in the region, support local businesses, and have delicious, fresh produce to eat.

The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning

Buying Local Foods

Onvia’s Project Center shows that in 2014, state and local governments issued 171 bids and requests for proposals for food purchases that contained keywords such as “locally grown” or “local farms.” State governments, led by Illinois and New York, issued 44% of the solicitations and 25% came from cities and towns. The City of New York and the City of Springfield, capital of the Prairie State, released the most local solicitations last year.

City of New York
In January 2015, awarded Plainfield Fruit & Produce Company , a six-month, $1.16 million contact for fresh fruits and vegetables. The contract is available for any city agency, including the Department of Corrections. The contract includes the guidelines for preference of New York State suppliers.
State of Illinois
Issued a bid request in March 2015 to buy ice cream, sherbet and frozen dessert novelties to supply its departments of Corrections, Juvenile Justice, Human Services and Veterans Affairs. The contract, which would last from July to December 2015, includes provisions related to buying from local dairy farms and suppliers.


Education, Health and Social Service Agencies are Strong on Local Food

Onvia’s Project Center revealed that in 2014 40% of bid & RFP opportunities mentioning locally sourced foods supported education. 70% of locally sourced food solicitations for education came from elementary and secondary schools.

In August 2014, released a bid to get more California-grown fruits and vegetables on students’ lunch trays and also educate them on the benefits of eating healthy foods. The bid is based on the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, which is administered federally by the U.S. Agriculture Department and at the state level by California’s Education Department.


Beyond education, health and social service agencies represented another strong area for publishing locally sourced food solicitations.

In March 2015, awarded Indianhead Foodservice Distributor  a one-year contract, with four option years, to deliver food commodities. Indianhead will deliver dry groceries, cereals and baking ingredients. Deliveries also include items offered by many local farms, such as eggs, meats and—most notably for Wisconsin—cheeses. Interestingly, to keep these farmers in the loop, contractual provisions allow agencies to buy from local farms or dairies, instead of only certain contracted commodities.


Prepping for Food Contracts

Companies and producers can take away three points as they compete for future local food contracts.

First, food supply bidding opportunities are always in demand but a shift in the way American’s eat and the initiatives from agencies to boost local economies is beginning to influence food supply contracts.

Secondly, amongst state and local agencies, correctional facilities and schools have the most mouths to feed. In a broader look at bids & RFPs for food supply in general (locally grown or not), Project Center shows that in 2014, correctional agencies released 33% of 8,561 bids and RFPs for food purchases; 31% of the opportunities were issued by higher education and K-12 institutions.

Lastly, many states and school districts have the authority to choose the local farmer and producer in a means to get fresh food, reduce transportation costs and boost their local economy.