Despite a short growing season and a multitude of distribution challenges, Montana schools support Farm to School efforts and value locally sourced products. Results from the most recent USDA Farm to School census show that 83% of respondents incorporated local foods in their menus.
Funds obtained through Local Food for Schools Cooperative Agreements (LFS) can build on this foundation to expand the volume and variety of local products purchased, as well as the number of Montana suppliers who conduct business with schools.
The Montana Office of Public Instruction (OPI) proposes a three-part plan for achieving these goals:
- Centralized procurement of flour and lentils
As the State Distributing Agency for USDA Foods to Montana Schools, the OPI can conduct purchasing and distribution to equitably serve all school districts, regardless of size or location.
- Sub-grant to distributor for procurement of dry goods
OPI will invite regional food distributors to submit bids for the purchase and distribution of unprocessed and minimally processed dry goods. Distribution will be on a fair-share basis to all school districts based on total lunches served, ensuring that all school districts have access to Montana foods with no added workload on their part.
- Sub-grant to school districts
School districts will be invited to apply for sub-grants for purchases that meet their program needs and engage nearby producers. This allows for local control of spending and encourages the growth of new supplier relationships.
Together, these strategies will strengthen local suppliers and forge new pathways for procurement of school foods.