School meals programs represent a big marketing opportunity for Vermont producers and suppliers, purchasing more than $15 million worth of food and supplies last year. However these programs must follow strict federal and state requirements for competitive procurement for every purchase they make. These long-standing regulations are just now beginning to be enforced in Vermont, and many schools who were not previously complying them will begin to implement competitive procurement practices in the coming year.
Vermont FEED and the Vermont Agency of Education are teaming up to offer two free webinars this month. Aimed at producers and farmers who want to learn more about selling to schools, these two webinars will guide you through the federal regulations that these programs must follow, point out potential marketing opportunities for Vermont producers, and teach you how your business could be more competitive when bidding to supply school meals programs. These webinars are for farmers, producers, distributors, and other businesses that sell (or wish to sell) directly to school meal programs in Vermont.
February 17, 2015: Understanding Your Customers’ Needs & Regulations
This 1-hour webinar will discuss the market opportunities for various school meals programs. We will cover how the new menu requirements under the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act effect what types and sizes of foods schools are looking to purchase, what competitive purchasing requirements school meals programs need to follow, food safety requirements for these programs, and other things that school food service managers wish you knew about doing business with their programs.
February 24, 2015: Standing Out During a Competitive Procurement Process
In this 1-hour webinar, we will go deeper into the competitive purchasing procedures school meals programs must follow, and discuss ways that local producers can compete for this business. We will focus on ways that school meals programs may be thinking about what it means to “buy local” and do “farm to school” and how Vermont producers can fit their products and services into these efforts and compete for school business on more than just price.