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Purchasing and Food Distribution

In 1992 the Mississippi Department of Education and participating local school districts’ Child Nutrition Programs initiated a statewide purchasing program. Under this program, bids for food and supplies are issued by the Department. These bids represent manufacturer’s pricing as well as that of institutional distributors and supplies.

Local schools may order products from the approved bid list at a fixed price for the duration of the contract. The foods are delivered by contract distributors on a weekly basis, with the actual cost of food and delivery being paid by the district to the assigned distributor.

The specific items on the bid are determined by the Purchasing Management Committee (PMC). This includes quality of product, packaging, pricing, and pre-approved brands based on student acceptability. The PMC has a strong focus on the quality issues involving the items and brands which are approved, which includes testing of products with students in a school environment. Current committee members are listed in this document.

The service is self-funding from fees charged to the local entities. Costs are divided into start-up (one-time costs) and operation costs. These are then applied to the number of meals served by the member districts to generate revenue to meet an annual budget approved by the PMC. The one-time start-up rate will remain constant for all new members, while operation costs will be adjusted in subsequent years to reflect balance on hand as well as the inclusion of new members.

There are currently in excess of 600 items on the bid. These include food, produce, supplies, milk, ice cream, and bread used by participating districts. The cost savings on the initial bid items will more than cover the service fees incurred by the districts. Factoring in rebates received from some direct-to-manufacturer items increases those savings considerably.

Member districts’ participation results in cost savings, plus they no longer have to prepare, award, or manage bids for the approved items. This responsibility is transferred to the Department of Education as part of the overall operation.