Contracting with a Caterer

All Sponsors of the Child Nutrition Programs have the option of contracting with a Caterer to obtain meals. Typically, a Caterer will provide offsite food preparation and the delivery of unitized meals to the Sponsor. Caterers are most commonly unitized by Sponsors who do not have the facilities necessary to produce their own meals for the Child Nutrition Programs. A Caterer contract can be used for food service operations that are less than $100,000 and this includes all amendments.

Annual Training
All caterers and caterer liaisons must complete the training provided by ADE for contracting with a caterer.  Training can be accessed via the link below.

Procurement Requirements

Procurement is the process of acquiring goods or services. The purpose of effective procurement procedures is to ensure that such goods and services are obtained efficiently, economically, and in compliance with state and Federal law.

The first step in contracting with a caterer will be to estimate the amount of your contract and determine what type of procurement procedures you must use. If the value of your catering contract is less than $100,000, you may use the informal procedures. If the value of the contract is over $100,000, you must use the formal procedures as outlined in A.R.S. 15-213 A.1 and R7-2-1041 of the Arizona School District Procurement Code. If you are a charter school who is exempt from school district procurement standards, you must still comply with the Federal procurement guidelines per 2 CFR Part 200. USDA guidelines require all CNP participants to use formal procurement procedures when contracting for food and/or services if the total amount is $150,000 or more.

Program Cost Threshold Maximum

Type of School Food Authority Informal Cost Threshold Maximum
USDA Program Cost Threshold $150,000
Exempt Charter Schools, Non Profits, RCCI $150,000
Charter Schools $100,000
Arizona School Districts $100,000

Informal Procurement

Informal procurement procedures can be used when the amount of the catering contract is less than $100,000. The procedures are as follows:

  1. Develop written specifications;
  2. Obtain price or rate quotes from at least three (3) qualified sources;
  3. Maintain written records of quotes obtained and evidence of free and open competition;
  4. Evaluate quotes and maintain documentation of the selection procedure;
  5. Award contract to the most responsive and responsible vendor; and
  6. Complete annual “Contracting with a Caterer” training.

Informal Catering Contract Agreement Approval:

Informal contracts must be no longer than one (1) year and the contract dates must be between July 1 and June 30. ADE must review each agreement between a Sponsor and a caterer annually to ensure compliance with all the provisions and standards set forth in 7 CFR 210 and 250, Subpart D. The sponsor must receive approval of the agreement before food service operations can start. Each sponsor and vendor must keep a copy of the signed contract agreement.

Contract Agreement Instructions:

  1. Complete and sign the Catering Contract Agreement Checklist;
  2. Complete the Standard Agreement to Provide Food Service Template;
  3. Complete and sign the Certificate of Independent Price Determination (both sponsor and vendor);
  4. Complete and sign the Lobbying Forms if applicable (vendor signs if $100,000 or more); and
  5. Turn in all documents to ADE for approval.

Informal Procedure Templates:

Formal Procurement

Formal procurement procedures must be used when the amount of the catering contract is over $100,000 (or $150,000 for exempt charter or private schools). There are two methods of formal procurement:

Competitive Negotiation – also known as Request for Proposal (RFP). This method is used when price is not the only consideration. When the goal or objective is clear, but the product or service could be provided in a variety of ways and the purchaser is willing to evaluate multiple criteria, the RFP is appropriate. The RFP method requires more time for development, evaluation and selection than the IFB.

 Competitive Sealed Bids – also known as Invitation for Bid (IFB). This method is used when the only variable is the price of the product or service being purchased. The award must go to the lowest qualified proposal who meets the terms and conditions. The IFB requires clear, concise specifications. Sealed bids are accepted or rejected with no negotiation.

The procedures for conducting Formal Procurement for a catering contract are as follows:

  1. Complete mandatory RFP training;
  2. Complete template solicitation documents;
  3. Turn in documents for ADE approval;
  4. Send the RFP to five (5) vendors;
  5. Compile an Evaluation Committee and evaluate proposals using rubric;
  6. Turn in documents for ADE approval;
  7. Award contract; and
  8. Complete annual “Contracting with a Caterer” training.

Per the CFR, contracts must be no longer than one year in duration. Once the RFP process is completed, annual contract renewal amendments are allowable as long as they do not exceed four (4) additional one year extensions from the original contract period. While contract renewal amendments are permitted, the sponsor is not required to renew the contract and should only do so after it is determined that the renewal will benefit the sponsor. ADE must review and approve all contract renewal amendments prior to obtaining signatures from both parties. Changes to the contract cannot result in a material change. Contract renewal amendment documents will be sent out to those sponsors who have formal contracts.

For more information please contact:

Veronica Cramer
Contracts Management Officer
Health and Nutrition Services
(602) 364-1965
[email protected]