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 utilized 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

If the combined value of the food service agreement is more than $100,000 or meets the USDA large purchase threshold, formal procurement contracting procedures are required, as outlined in A.R.S. 15-213 A.1 and R7-2-1041 of the Arizona School District Procurement Code. However, if a charter school is exempt from the procurement code they must still comply with the Federal procurement guidelines per 7 CFR 3016.36 (b-i). 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.

The cost threshold set by State or Federal procurement law determines whether Sponsors can use the informal procurement procedure or if they must use one of the formal procurement procedures. The cost threshold applies to:

  • Single items/services (Examples: milk, bread, or a vended meal contract)
  • Many items of the same general type of product (Example: office supplies)
  • Caterering Contracts

USDA contract duration guidelines states an Agreement between a School Food Authority (SFA) and Caterer shall be of duration of no longer than one (1) year. The Agreement has the option for a yearly renewal but may not exceed 4 additional years. All contracts shall include a termination clause whereby either party may cancel for cause with 60-day notification. 210.16(d) To determine the cost threshold of an Agreement, a SFA should estimate the yearly value of an agreement and multiply this number by five.

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

There are two types of procurement:

  1. Formal Procurement
  2. Informal Procurement

If the contract with the Caterer is more than $100, 000 or $150,000 for non-exempt Charter School then Formal Procurement is required.

    1. Formal Procurement is the process of acquiring, by lease or purchase, goods and services such as food, equipment, bookkeeping, and auditing. The purpose of an effective procurement procedure is to ensure that such goods and services are obtained efficiently, economically and in compliance with state and Federal law.
      • RFP Template; and
      • RFP Evaluation Rubric Template.
      • Selected Catering proposal;
      • All evaluation team members scores and comments for each proposal scored; and
      • Copy of the Vendor list that the RFP was sent to.

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. Contact ADE for assistance and more detailed information about allowable large purchase procurement procedures.

Competitive Sealed Bids: Also known as Invitation for Bid (IFB), this method is used when the only variable is the price of a product being purchased because 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.

A Template Catering Request for Proposal (RFP) and Evaluation Rubric is available however if an alternative format is used, it must at a minimum, contain all the clauses in the RFP.

ADE Procedures for Conducting an RFP for a Caterer

SFAs that are considering contracting with a Caterer must follow the procedures listed below. These procedures apply to the Request for Proposal (RFP).

Mandatory Training
If the SFA must conduct a formal procurement, the SFA must attend the mandatory RFP training provided by ADE before the solicitation process can begin.

Solicitation Documents
It is required that the SFA use the ADE RFP template and RFP Evaluation Rubric for the solicitation process. If the SFA wants to make any modifications, they must receive approval from ADE prior to making any modifications. The documents that must be sent to ADE to obtain approval are:

  • RFP Template, and
  • RFP Evaluation Rubric Template.

Whether or not the SFA makes any modifications, the SFA must e-mail the solicitation materials outlined above to ADE to for approval prior to beginning the solicitation process and releasing the documents. Once the SFA has received ADE approval, the SFA may then begin the solicitation process.

RFP Release
The SFA is required to send the RFP to at least five (5) different vendors. If the RFP is sent to four (4) or fewer vendors then the SFA must advertise the RFP in a local newspaper and should run the ad for at least 14 days prior to the RFP closing. The SFA is required to send the approved procurement documents to each company on ADE’s Vendor Contact List. The SFA must allow a minimum of four (4) weeks for interested Caterers to complete and submit their proposal.

Evaluation Committee
The SFA must establish a committee to evaluate the RFP with at least three (3) members. The committee may be comprised of principals, teachers, parents, administrators, school board members or other individuals who may have involvement with the Child Nutrition Program/food service operation. Due to the complexity of the process, students should not serve as committee members.

ADE Approval of Selected Proposal
The selected proposal, with all supporting documents included, must be sent to ADE for final review and approval prior to obtaining signatures. Then, ADE will notify the SFA, in writing, when all documents have been approved for signatures. Keep in mind, failure to obtain ADE approval before obtaining signatures from either party, will result in the withholding of federal funds until such time as the required documents are approved by ADE and new signatures are obtained. Before notifying the selected Caterer, the SFA must send ADE the following:
When ADE has ensured that the procurement meets all of the applicable CFR, ADE will notify the SFA in writing. Then, the SFA may notify the Caterer of Award. Afterward, the SFA must send ADE a copy of the Offer of Acceptance and Contract Award form.

Each SFA approved RFP, with all attached appendices, attachments, exhibits and amendments, becomes the final contract between the SFA and Caterer when the Acceptance of Offer and Contract Award is signed.

To obtain Template Request for Proposal (RFP) Documents, please contact:

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

Contract Renewal Amendment

Per the CFR, contracts must be of a duration no longer than one-year.  Once the formal RFP process is completed, annual contract amendments are allowable as long as they do not exceed four (4) additional one-year extensions from the original contract period.  While contract amendments are permitted, an SFA is not required to amend the contract for an additional year and should do so only after careful evaluation of the Caterer’s performance and a determination that the amendment will benefit the SFA.

ADE Approval
ADE must review and approve the contract amendment prior to obtaining signatures from both parties.  Changes to the contract cannot result in a material change.  In order to approve the amendment, the SFA must provide the following documents:

  • Copy of an unsigned contract amendment;
  • Catering Contract Checklist;
  • Fixed Fee Pricing summary (if applicable);
  • Signed copy of Certification of Independent Price Determination; and
  • Signed copy of the Certification Regarding Lobbying.

Contracting with a Caterer

If you do not need to conduct a Request for Proposal then a Template Catering Agreement is available above, however if an alternative format is used, it must at a minimum, contain all of the clauses in the Template Catering Agreement and additional language may be added if both parties agree.

If your contract is less than $100,000, then the Sponsor will not have to conduct a Request for Proposal. ADE has a Template Catering Agreement available, however if an alternative format is used, it must at a minimum, contain all of the clauses in the Template Catering Agreement and additional language may be added if both parties agree.

    1. Informal Procurement procedures are used when the purchase of food, services, and/or supplies from a supplier (wholesaler, retailer, and/or vendor) for a single transaction is less than $100,000. The informal procurement procedure should include the following:
      • Obtain price (or rate) quotes from at least three qualified sources.
      • Maintain a written record of the quotes obtained.
      • Maintain documented evidence of free and open competition at the best price.
      • Maintain documentation of the selection procedure.

General Procurement Procedures

The Contract must be no longer than one (1) year. For contracts over $25,000, the LEA must verify the status of the vendor regarding debarment and suspension. This can be verified at:

This checklist must be completed and submitted to the Arizona Department of Education (ADE), along with the Catering Agreement for all approvals.

Catering Agreement Approval

A signed copy of the Catering Agreement must be sent to the Arizona Department of Education, Health (ADE) and Nutrition Services for approval. ADE must review each Agreement annually between s Sponsor and Caterer 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 must complete an approved on-line application before the Sponsor can receive reimbursement for claims. The Sponsor and the Vendor must keep a copy of the signed contract and each amendment.

Note: If a Sponsor decides to cancel a Vendor’s contract. Then the Sponsor must submit a new contract for approval and update the on-line application.

For more information please contact:

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