Federal and state requirements for competitive procurement and contract provisions must be met when a school food authority participating in School Nutrition Programs (SNPs) obtains a contract for management of its food service. Federal procurement standards allow state and local procurement procedures to be used as long as they are consistent with federal requirements. If procurement and contract requirements are not met, a school food authority may be prohibited from paying contract costs from the nonprofit school food service account.
Federal regulations require a school food authority to follow formal procurement procedures to obtain a contract that will exceed $150,000. State law requires public schools to follow formal procurement procedures for contracts that will exceed $100,000.
The Request for Proposals (RFPs) format is usually used (instead of an Invitation for Bids format) to obtain a food service management contract. The RFP format allows the school food authority to award its contract based on a combination of lowest price and how well the proposals meet non-price criteria established by the school food authority.
The documents and templates referred to below are available on the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) website at School Nutrition Programs / Procurement and Contracts / Food Service Management Contracts.
1. Draft the Request for Proposals document
Timeline: by January or February.
The school food authority selects one of the two versions of RFP for a food service management contract that are available on the MDE website:
For either RFP template, also use the RFP – Attachments spreadsheet for required attachments to the RFP.
RFP for a Fixed Meal Price Contract
With an RFP for a fixed meal price contract, the proposals from companies will specify the fixed prices to be charged for each meal type. The fixed meal prices are the company’s total charges on a per-meal basis (before using any U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Foods), including management costs and profit. (Since the fixed meal prices do not take into account the value of USDA Foods that may be received during the contract year, the company fully credits the school food authority for the value of USDA Foods as they are received during the contract year.)
In addition to the RFP template, use the RFP-Attachments (Excel) spreadsheet to develop the required attachments to the RFP.
RFP for a Cost-Reimbursable Contract
With an RFP for a cost-reimbursable contract, the proposals from companies will indicate the fixed management fees that the company will charge, and the maximum costs that the school food authority will have to reimburse to the company.
Monitoring of costs: For a cost-reimbursable contract, the school food authority is responsible during the contract year to monitor that the company has requested reimbursements only for actual and allowable costs, after subtracting applicable discounts, rebates, and credits received by the company. Reimbursement for costs must be limited to the lesser of (1) the maximum per-meal costs in the company’s proposal or (2) the actual reimbursable costs incurred by the company. Also the school food authority monitors the value of USDA Foods received by the company, which reduces reimbursable costs.
In addition to the RFP template, the RFP-Attachments (Excel) spreadsheet contains various documents that must be attached for a complete RFP.
In the RFP (either fixed meal price or cost-reimbursable), the school food authority identifies its evaluation criteria that will be used to award points for the non-price portions of each proposal. Attach the evaluation criteria to the RFP.
Procurement of Automated Eligibility System
If an RFP will include requesting the company to act as the school’s procurement agent for acquiring an automated eligibility system, contact the MDE-Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) for additional provisions that must be included in the RFP.
2. (Optional) Send draft RFP to MDE for review
The school food authority may send its RFP to MDE-FNS for review prior to distributing to companies. Two weeks should be allowed for response. An estimated response date may be requested.
3. Advertise and distribute the RFP
Timeline: by March.
The school food authority must advertise the RFP in at least one public notice in a newspaper of general circulation in the area of the school food authority. The notice must provide a general description of the scope of work, how to request a copy of the RFP, and information on the pre-proposal meeting (see number 5 below) and the deadline for proposals (see number 6 below).
The school food authority also must distribute the RFP to known vendors that may be interested in submitting proposals.
4. Select evaluation committee
Timeline: by March.
At least three persons should be selected for the evaluation committee. Do not select individuals who may have a conflict of interest. The evaluation committee members will attend the pre-proposal meeting and any presentations, and evaluate the non-price portions of the proposals.
5. Pre-proposal (on-site) meeting with interested companies
Timeline: by March / April.
A mandatory pre-proposal meeting should be held onsite for interested companies. If the meeting is mandatory, only companies that have attended the meeting may submit proposals. The pre-proposal meeting provides an opportunity for the school food authority to answer questions and provide clarifications, and to conduct a facility tour, preferably while the food service is in operation.
It should be stated at the meeting that information provided orally from the school food authority is not official until provided in writing to all companies that have received the RFP. Inform companies that all contact with the district must be through the designated district representative. Any other contact with district personnel, administration, vendors, contractors, or board members will disqualify their proposal.
The pre-proposal meeting should not be held until interested companies have had an opportunity to review the RFP, so a couple of weeks should be allowed between distribution of the RFP and the meeting. The meeting should be held at least two weeks prior to the deadline date that needs to be set for companies’ proposals, so that companies have time to thoroughly develop their proposals and request any clarifications.
Companies may request clarifications regarding the RFP before, during or after the pre-proposal meeting. Clarifications must be provided in writing to all companies that have received the RFP, and should be provided within a week of the request. The school food authority may issue needed clarifications at any time, although it is recommended that clarifications not be issued during the last week before the proposal deadline. However if a late issue arises that must be clarified, the proposal deadline can be extended.
6. Deadline for companies to submit proposals
Timeline – by April. Allow at least two weeks after pre-proposal meeting and at least one week after any final clarifications.
At the scheduled date and time specified as the deadline for proposal submission, the proposals are opened and read aloud. Proposals either conform to the requirements of the RFP and are accepted for consideration, or are rejected for being non-responsive to the RFP. All proposals become the property of the school food authority. No access to proposals can be provided to companies until the contract is awarded.
7. Evaluate proposals; award contract; draft contract
Timeline: by April / May. Allow at least two weeks after proposal deadline for evaluation, award of contract and drafting contract.
The evaluation committee evaluates and ranks the non-price portions of the proposals, based on the criteria that were listed in the RFP. Maintain documentation of each person’s evaluation and the final decision. The Point Calculator and Instructions, available from the RFP – Attachments spreadsheet, should be used to record the points awarded to each proposal.
The contract is awarded to the responsible company that has submitted a proposal that is responsive to the RFP and has received the highest number of points based on all criteria.
The standard SNP Food Service Management Contract (either fixed meal prices or cost-reimbursable) provided by MDE must be used as the primary contract document between the school food authority and company. The school food authority may attach an additional document to the contract to add or modify provisions as needed, subject to review of the additional provisions by MDE.
General requirements for food service management contracts:
8. Send draft contract and procurement documentation to MDE for review
Timeline – by May.
FNS will respond either that the contract meets program requirements and may be signed, or will specify changes that are required prior to signature. Allow two weeks for MDE response.
9. Obtain school board approval
If necessary due to timing, the school board can approve the contract pending review and approval by MDE. (The school food authority’s application to participate in SNP for the coming school year cannot be approved until MDE has received the final contract and procurement information.)
10. Send signed final contract to MDE
Timeline: by May, or as soon as possible after MDE review.
If necessary, redraft contract provisions as directed by MDE.
Obtain signatures to the final contract.
E-mail or fax the signed contract to MDE as directed above. MDE will upload the final contract and procurement information to the school food authority’s SNP application for the coming school year.
Revised February 2015