Q1. Will advance payments be available?
A1. Yes. There will be provisions for advance payments in accordance with Section 4.0 Payments of the AMS Grants Division Terms and Conditions (pdf).
Q2. How could this program work with existing efforts? Can we use LFS funding to supplement funding for an existing food purchase program?
A2. Yes. States would be able to include information in their proposals about ongoing efforts and how this program would work with existing programs. Applicants who intend to use LFS funding for existing efforts must demonstrate clearly in their proposal how LFS funding would supplement (e.g. by increasing or expanding) existing food procurement and distribution to schools. The applicant must also demonstrate how funds will be used to align existing activities with LFS program goals, objectives, outcomes, and reporting requirements.
Q3. What is the definition of “local and regional food” for this program?
A3. Local and regional food 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. Food must also meet the requirements of the definition of “domestic food” in the Request for Applications, see A5.
Q4. What is the timeline of the program? When will the RFA open and close? What is the performance period?
A4. The application period will be 120 days. The period of performance will be for up to eighteen months from time of award.
Q5. Can you clarify what foods are considered “unprocessed or minimally processed”?
A5. 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 (eg. chicken nuggets, fish sticks, pre-made pizzas, etc).
Q6. The RFA says that purchases must target socially disadvantaged farmers and producers and small businesses. Can you expand more on what is meant by socially disadvantaged producers? Are purchases limited to those producers or is this just a target?
A6. For the purpose of this program, “socially disadvantaged” is a farmer or rancher who is a member of a Socially Disadvantaged Group. A Socially Disadvantaged Group is a group whose members have been subject to discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, and, where applicable, sex, marital status, familial status, parental status, religion, sexual orientation, genetic information, political beliefs, reprisal, or because all or a part of an individual's income is derived from any public assistance program.
While purchasing from socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers and small businesses is not a requirement, it is a target. Proposals should include the steps the applicant will take to target these populations.
Q7. Can funding be used to partner with organizations who purchase from local, socially disadvantaged vendors and small businesses to conduct procurement for the states?
A7. The state may subaward to conduct program activities, but funding may not be used for administrative expenses. Funds may only be used for the costs of food, storage, and distribution. Subawards, if known, should be identified in the project narrative as part of the application. The cooperative agreement will be with the state government.
Q8: Does the headquarters of a producer or supplier have to be in the same state or within 400 miles of the delivery destination to be considered a “local or regional” supplier?
A8: Yes. To be considered "local or regional," the producer or supplier headquarters must be in the same state or within 400 miles of the delivery destination.
Q9. Can a state partner with an organization that has a local distribution site, but its national corporate headquarters is in a separate location that is not local?
A9. No. The organization's corporate headquarters must be located within the same state as the recipient agency, or within 400 miles of the delivery destination to be considered local and qualify as a partner organization.
Q10. How can public or private, non-profit or for-profit organizations connect with State governments about opportunities to be a supplier or distributor?
A10. Organizations interested in participating in the cooperative agreement as a supplier or distributor may identify points-of-contact at their state government by determining the agencies, commissions, or departments that are responsible for agriculture, procurement, food distribution, emergency response, administration of the National School Lunch Program, or similar activities within the State.
Q11. Does all food purchased need to be distributed to schools?
A11. Yes. Food purchased through the cooperative agreement program must be distributed to schools that participate in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) or School Breakfast Program (SBP).
Q12. Can funding be used for infrastructure investments, such as equipment purchases?
A12. No. LFS program funding is for food purchasing. Storage and distribution expenses directly associated with this food purchase program are also allowable. Per the AMS Grants Division General Terms and Conditions (pdf), acquisition costs of general purpose equipment or lease agreements to own (i.e., lease-to-own or rent-to-own) are not allowed. Equipment rentals are allowed, but the lease or rental agreement must terminate at the end of the grant cycle.
Q13: Our state procurement regulations limit us to making awards on a low-cost basis only, which may inhibit our ability to achieve program goals. Can AMS provide states with information/models for subcontracting that will provide procurement flexibilities and guide them toward meeting the goals of the program?
A13: There is not a one size fits all model for every state’s procurement regulations. AMS is available for consultation to assist applicants with finding flexibilities to assist with meeting program goals. Additionally, the application review process allows negotiation, so if a submitted proposal does not align to the program goals, AMS can provide additional procurement technical guidance at that point.
Q14: Is it required that states target purchases from farmers and producers who are both socially disadvantaged and small businesses, or just one or the other?
A:14 States should indicate in their proposals the steps they will take to target both populations. The farmers and producers targeted can be either socially disadvantaged, a small business, or both.
Q15: How do we determine if a company is a small business or not? Is there a certification process?
A15: Small business is defined in the RFA Section 1.1.1. States will determine which businesses are considered small businesses based on this definition. There is no required certification or validation process. There are multiple resources to assist with identifying small businesses. Applicants may wish to consult the Small Business Administration website at www.sba.gov for more information or consult with small business resources within their states or territories.
Q16: Can subawards be made to school districts or schools to carry out purchases?
A16: Yes. Subawards are allowable. If the state chooses to subaward, all program requirements would flow down to subrecipients. The state agency holding the agreement would be responsible for monitoring of subawards to ensure that program requirements are met.
Q17: Can Tribal Governments apply for this program?
A17: Applications for the Local Food for Schools program are open to state agencies and U.S. territories only. States are required to ensure equitable distribution to tribal schools as required by the National School Lunch Program (NSLP).
Q18. The RFA says that states must ensure equitable distribution to individual school districts as is required in 7 CFR 250.58(b). Do states have any flexibility in determining which school districts receive food? Could it be based on need or another metric determined by the state?
A18. Yes, states have flexibility in determining how to distribute the food. 7 CFR 250.58(b) provides a guideline for states to implement their program in a way that ensures equitable distribution, however states may use other factors to decide how to best meet state needs. Examples of other criteria could include areas with the greatest need, availability of local food, or other historical data on lunches served. States may use their judgement to determine where to direct the food in their state and the decision should be reflected in the work plan section of the narrative proposal.
Questions added 5/25/2022
Q19. How frequently can we submit payment requests? Can we receive a lump sum advance payment for the entirety of the grant funding?
A19. There are two types of acceptable payment requests for the LFS program: Reimbursements and Advance Payments.
Reimbursements are transfers of federal funds to recipients after the recipient has completed approved program activities. Reimbursement requests should be submitted on a monthly basis.
Advance payments are transfers of federal funds to recipients prior to completion of approved program activities. Advance payments are limited to minimum amounts needed and must be timed in accordance with the actual, immediate cash needs of the recipient to carry out program activities. For the LFS program, AMS is allowing recipients to request funding for up to 3 months of program activities. There is no limitation to the amount of funding that can be requested in an advance payment, provided that the funding is utilized within a 90-day period.
Q20. What types of costs are allowable for the LFS program under the categories of storage and distribution?
A20. Allowable costs under storage and distribution may include any typical direct costs associated with the storage and distribution of commodity products. Examples include direct salaries for temporary warehouse workers; lease or rental of delivery trucks or other equipment (forklifts, refrigerators, freezers, etc); payments/fees for common carriers for transporting or storing commodities; lease or rental of warehouse space; or supplies used in the storage and handling of commodity products (boxes, pallets, etc). Applicants that have questions concerning the allowability of specific costs should the AMS LFS team at MRP.AMS.LFS@usda.gov.
Questions Added 7/7/2022
Q21. What procurement rules apply to States and subawards made to SFAs?
A21. The procurement regulations are outlined in Part 200 of Title 2 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations titled, Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards. State and local rules may be more restrictive than Federal policies, or may provide specific support for local sourcing. States, SFAs, and any subrecipients must follow all applicable Federal, State, and local procurement rules.
Questions Added 3/28/2023
Q22. Which programs can receive food purchased with LFS funding?
A22. Food purchased with LFS funding may only be served in the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program.
Q23. How are funds transferred from USDA/AMS to the recipient agency?
A23. Recipients must submit a claim in ezFedGrants for either a reimbursement or advance payment, as appropriate. Please allow up to 10 business days for AMS review and processing. Upon approval of the claim, payments will be made via Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) to the bank account specified by the recipient in the System for Award Management (www.SAM.gov). Recipients are responsible for ensuring their banking information is accurate and current in their organization’s SAM.gov profile. More information on payments can be found in the LFS Guidance on Payment Options.
Q24. What are the circumstances in which LFS funding can be used to pay for processing costs?
A24. Minimal processing costs are allowable when the costs are included in the price of the final product, or if the costs are included as part of the procurement of the final product.
Q25: Can LFS funding be used to purchase livestock, live animals, or cattle?
A25: No. Funding can only be used to purchase unprocessed or minimally processed foods, such as meat, poultry, fruit, vegetables, seafood, and dairy.
Q26: Can SFAs use LFS funds if they utilize contracts to procure vended meals and/or the services of a Food Service Management Company, and are there any specific recordkeeping requirements that must be observed?
A26: In situations where an SFA has a FSMC, or a vended meal contract, the SFA may use LFS funds toward the payment of invoices associated with those agreements. However, it is incumbent on the SFA to ensure such payments, over the period in which the award is used, include charges for local, minimally processed domestic foods at least equal to the amount of LFS funds used to pay the invoices.
SFAs will need to work with their FSMC/vendor to ensure appropriate expenditures are being made and documented for foods meeting the requirements as specified in the terms and conditions of the award. In practice, SFAs are not required to collect documentation from their FSMC in advance of payment; however, there is an expectation that documentation will be available upon demand. Documentation should include invoices for local, minimally processed domestic foods purchased in support of the contract that are at least equal to LFS funds paid to the FSMC/vendor. In addition, SFAs retain the ability to purchase allowable food items outside of their food service management contract, as long as the contract permits such.
Q27: If LFS funds are sub awarded to School Food Authorities (SFAs), can SFAs make food purchases from school-operated entities, such as school greenhouses?
A27: Yes. SFAs may use LFS funds to make purchases from school-operated entities, such as school greenhouses. Purchases must be limited to food items that are unprocessed or minimally processed.
Q28: For which Child Nutrition Programs may LFS funds be used to support the service of meals and snacks?
A28: LFS funds are available only to SFAs operating the NSLP and/or SBP and may only be used by SFAs to purchase unprocessed or minimally processed, local domestic food products for those programs. This includes the NSLP Seamless Summer Option (SSO) and NSLP Afterschool Snacks, as these are components of the NSLP.
As such, if an SFA operating NSLP and/or SBP operates other Child Nutrition Programs (i.e. the Special Milk Program, the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, the Summer Food Service Program, and/or the Child and Adult Care Food Program), LFS funds may not be used in conjunction with those programs (i.e. the SFA must limit the purchase and use of local, domestic food products to support only the NSLP/SBP meal service).