• Resources to Aid in Funding Your Food Service Program

    Posted by Lisa Truax on 9/11/2018

    About a week ago, I logged in to a webinar hosted by the Institute of Child Nutrition titled Managing and Applying for Grants.  I figured that 60 minutes would be well worth my time to bring valuable resources to the fingertips of school food authorities (SFAs) participating in the food service program. 


    Below, I’ll be able to include all the wonderful web links and resources shared through this webinar with all of you.  However, the main message that continually struck me was that you have to tell your story.  You need to tell your story everywhere and anywhere in order to change perceptions and to grow a successful food service program.  You’ll need to share your needs, capabilities and dreams for your food service program.  Options and grants are limitless…all you have to do is try!  

    Per the Whole Kids Foundation, some of their grant writing tips include:


    • Specific and concise
    • Unique
    • Realistic and strategic
    • Sustainable
    • Passionate

    To view the recorded webinar, visit: Managing and Applying for Grants

    So…get started today!  Plan out what grants are available at a local and state level and on a national level through various sites such as:

    • USDA
    • Grants.gov
    • Kellogg Foundation
    • United Fresh Produce
    • Share Our Strength
    • Chef Ann Foundation
    • No Kid Hungry
    • Dairy Association
    • Whole Kids Foundation

    Click here for a complete list of grant resources and opportunities courtesy of ICN and the School Nutrition S.T.A.R. Program.

    Some exciting opportunities include:

     School Salad Bars

    Salad Bar

    The Bee Grant ProgramBee



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  • Procurement Thresholds on the Rise

    Posted by Lisa Truax on 8/28/2018

    With procurement practices becoming part of the normal routine when it comes to school nutrition in North Dakota, it’s just in time to welcome increased procurement thresholds recently adopted by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the State of North Dakota.  While North Dakota still operates around micro-purchase, small acquisitions and large acquisitions those stringent dollar values have increased.

    With the new fiscal year starting July 1, 2018, the State of North Dakota has aligned itself with the new federal micro-purchase threshold of $10,000, up from $3,500 in years past.  In North Dakota, schools will hold at the current large acquisition (formal purchase) threshold of $25,000, requiring a competitive sealed solicitation process.  Purchases that fall between $10,000 and $25,000 will need to follow the simplified acquisition process, otherwise known as the quoting process or small purchase. 

    The increased thresholds allow school food authorities who participate in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP) a little more breathing room when it comes the competitive procurement process.  The quoting process takes time, however, it doesn’t nearly take the same amount of resources as a sealed solicitation process.  Many of the purchases made for a school nutrition program will fall into the simplified acquisition threshold (i.e.  new equipment).  As always, remember to document your purchases and keep that documentation on file for a minimum of one (1) year. 

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  • Grant Opportunity - Expand Breakfast Opportunities

    Posted by Lisa Truax on 6/19/2018

    Action For Healthy Kids

    It’s never too early to start planning!  Action for Healthy Kids is promoting  an upcoming grant opportunity for either school breakfast or game on initiatives. The next grant application period will open in early February 2019. 

    If your districts is interested in expanding breakfast opportunities, now is your chance to explore with your district, well in advance, if any of these opportunities are right for you! 

    See flyer for complete information or visit http://www.actionforhealthykids.org/grants

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  • NDESC Hosts Q&A Session at NDSNA Conference

    Posted by NDESC on 6/12/2018 8:00:00 AM

    NDSNA Logo Last week, in Bismarck, ND, the North Dakota Educators Service Cooperative (NDESC) hosted an hour Q&A session during the North Dakota School Nutrition Association (NDSNA) Conference.  NDESC, in a room full of new participating School Food Authorities (SFAs) along with schools looking to learn more about NDESC and the food service program, listened, learned and attentively asked questions about the process and requirements when it comes to competitive procurement.

    "All in all, it was a very successful Q&A session.  We had great conversation, reinforcing the competitive process NDESC took with 98 participating SFAs,” states Lisa Truax, Bid and Contract Facilitator with NDESC. 

    The new contract with awarded vendor, Food Services of America will commence July 1, 2018.  Participating agencies will have access to the list of the market basket items as well as all general catalog items.  Access to market basket CN labels and product formulation statements will also be available July 1st

    For any schools interested in joining the food service program, please complete the Request to Join form and return to Lisa Truax, ltruax@ndesc.org.  Schools requesting to join are subject to approval from both NDESC and FSA.  If approved, schools can join/access the program four (4) times throughout the year:  July 1, October 1, January 1, and April 1.

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  • NDESC to Host Webinar

    Posted by Lisa Truax on 4/23/2018

    Ordering Management Training with FSA
    Your food service awarded vendor, Food Services of America, will be demonstrating their web-based order management system. 

    As the current school year slowly winds down, get revved up for the 18-19 school year with webinars dedicated specifically to you!  This webinar will outline:

    • How to access K12 bid products; all remaining K12 products
    • How to build order guides
    • Account information; delivery dates/windows, support contacts;
    • Account Center Overview; creating automated statements, invoices, making payments
    • Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Grant Invoicing
    • And more….

    As you can see, both business managers and food service directors may benefit from the webinar.

    Webinar Deatils - North Dakota
    May 8th @ 9:30 a.m. CT
    May 9th @ 2:30 p.m. CT
    May 10th @ 9:30 a.m. CT

    *These webinars will be recorded for later playback and will be posted to our website.

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  • School Food Authorities Award to Food Services of America

    Posted by Lisa Truax on 4/11/2018

    The cooperatives, under the direction of participating School Food Authorities (SFAs), using the evaluation criteria outlined in the solicitation documents have completed the negotiation phase with Food Services of America for the service zones 1, 2, 3 and 4.

    We are pleased to announce the successful negotiation of an acceptable contract with Food Services of America. 

    Additional information will be reaching you starting next week, April 16th regarding the onboarding and implementation process with Food Services of America.  This process will ensure that each district/SFA is setup and trained on Food Services of America’s ordering system and available resources prior to school releasing for the summer.


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  • It's Crunch Time

    Posted by Lisa Truax on 12/5/2017

    It’s definitely crunch time as we approach the release of the food and distribution services solicitation in North Dakota.  We’ve had a few last minute school food authorities (SFAs) join the solicitation process only increasing the footprint of participants in this solicitation process.  Currently, this solicitation will be bringing 90 North Dakota schools together! 

    Yes!  That’s a lot of information and data to comb through, but that is the service that NDESC is providing to members.  I’ve sorted, data mined information, communicated with SFAs, and working towards a draft of the solicitation that reflects the desires of food service directors in the great state of North Dakota.  We still have a long way to go in the next five weeks, however, I truly believe that this will be one of the most competitive solicitations. The cooperative process is definitely saving your district time, energy, and a lot of dollars in the long run.

    Stay tuned as we begin to draft and finalize documents.  Feel free to reach out to your neighbors who might be on the focus groups {find them here} and let them know your feedback on what makes a great food service program. 

    As always, please let us know if you have any questions.

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  • NDESC Focus Group Members Connect to Discuss Solicitation Process

    Posted by Lisa Truax on 10/24/2017

    A little over a week ago, the first official focus group meeting took place.  Focus Group Schools agreeing to participate in the focus group gathered on a conference call.  While NDESC got the group up to speed on what NDESC’s been doing over the summer, there was great discussion in regards to what North Dakota schools want out of their prime food distributor.   For a quick recap of the meeting, follow the highlights below.

    Getting Up to Speed

    • NDESC met with 26 different manufacturers and brokers this summer to learn more about their side of the food industry and how it relates to K12.
    • NDESC hosted an in-person distributor meeting in August 2017.  Ten different distributors attended to learn about the cooperative, the solicitation process and the value of the program.
    • NDESC has been working with 88 schools to complete their Letters’ of Commitments along with gathering information such as delivery needs, usage/velocity reports and financial reports.  *Usage/velocity reports severely influence the total volume for all participants.  NDESC stated schools not submitting their usage reports will directly impact the discounts offered by manufacturers and brokers.

    Service Zones

    • North Dakota is composed of eight (8) regional educational associations (REAs), which are based off the number of participants and the volume/spend of those participants; NDESC has established four (4) service zones for this solicitation. Each of the four (4) service zones averages between $1.7 to $2 million dollars in spend and averages between 17 and 24 participants.  Click here for a map laying out the service zones and highlighting which schools belong to each zone.  For a closer look at which districts are participating, visit our interactive map.

    Focus Group Responsibilities
    The focus group for the solicitation was made up of food service directors, business managers and superintendents, all of which have a direct impact on a schools’ child nutrition program.  Members of the focus group will be required to review solicitation documents, provide input and feedback on various items.  These members will be the initial group that will evaluate qualified responses from vendors and make recommendations for live vendor presentations.

    If you would like to be part of the focus group, please let me know by sending an email to ltruax@ndesc.org

    As we move into the draft and development stage of the RFP, please review the updated timeline posted below.

     November 2017 – December 2017: draft and development stage of RFP documents.

    • January 2018 – February 2018: release of RFP.
    • March 2018: due date, evaluations, presentations and award(s) made
    • April 2018: NDESC to execute contract and awarded distributor(s) to start implementation/onboarding plans for any schools making a shift to a new distributor.
    • July 2018: official contract start date.
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  • Committing to the Service Cooperative Process; Change is a Good Thing

    Posted by Lisa Truax on 9/26/2017

    As we head into the competitive solicitation process, some of you may be nervous about the process and have concerns about who could be your potential distributor, product changes, and even cost of the product itself.  I completely understand that moving to a new process can be uncomfortable.  Please know that we at the service cooperative will work hand in hand with you throughout the process. Other things to keep in mind:

    Compliance. Know that the cooperative is facilitating a process to ensure all federal and state regulations are being followed.  The cooperative does competitive solicitations and contract management on a daily basis, all while running a compliant food solicitation for the past 20 plus years for its members.   The cooperative team is constantly following the changes, memos and updates regarding the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs.  Did you know that certain federal language and signed documents are required during a competitive food solicitation process?  The cooperative does, and it puts extensive research into knowing those specific details to ensure protection of its participating school districts.

    Knowing who is all involved.  For the food solicitation process, the cooperative is merely the facilitator for participating school districts.  Across the tri-state area, the cooperative is currently trending to serve over 175 school districts. Up 26% from the last time we conducted this process in 2013, showing the value of the cooperative in regards to savings, knowledge of the competitive process and management and support of its participants. For a map of all those involved, visit https://www.ndesc.org/Page/436.  When looking at the map, those schools shown in gold have designated their interest in being part of the focus groups who will help steer the terms and conditions and the product specification lists based on the volume of products being purchased amongst participating schools.  The larger the volume, the better the price!

    Save on soft costs.  What do I mean when I say soft costs?  I define soft costs as the time, energy and resources spent on not only conducting the solicitation process but also managing the resulting contract. The cooperative, with your involvement, takes on that process.   So far in this solicitation process, the cooperative has completed the following:

    • Hosted webinars – approximately 6 hours
    • Hosted conference calls – approximately 10 hours
    • Hosted meetings with 26 manufacturers and brokers – approximately 40 hours
    • Hosted and communicated with distributors – approximately 15 hours
    • Tracked and communicated with committed participants – approximately 60 hours
    • Promoted the food service program – approximately 10 hours
    • Running total = 141 hours

    As a service cooperative, our mission is to support the work of our members, and we’ve been doing that for 20+ years with our food service program.  If you have any hesitations, please feel free to call me at 888-739-3289.

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  • Provide Your Input through Participation

    Posted by Lisa Truax on 9/12/2017

    Join the Focus Groups…Be a Pinnacle Part of the Solicitation Process

    Many of you might wonder what the roles, duties and responsibilities of the focus groups are when it comes to the solicitation process.  Focus groups are composed of school personnel who are wanting to provide feedback on the solicitation process, assist in developing the terms and conditions, creating the product specification list(s), evaluating responses and recommending vendors for live presentations. 

    Focus Group Meeting How much time will it take?
    Members of the focus groups are not required to drive X amount of miles to attend focus group meetings. The cooperatives will make accommodations for those who are not able to attend in person (when applicable). A majority of focus group meetings will occur over webinar, conference call and/or email.  Focus group participants however do have to commit to responding to the cooperative within a timely manner when requested (i.e. evaluations due, review of the RFP drafts, providing feedback, etc.). 

    Interested in Participating in the Focus Group?
    If you haven’t already signed up through the Letter of Commitment to be part of the focus group, contact Lisa Truax at ltruax@lcsc.org and she’ll send you’re the required paperwork to be an active member in the focus group.

    What to expect next?
    Once the Letter of Commitment deadline has passed (September 29, 2017), the cooperative will begin communication with the focus group or groups.  Depending on the number of those wanting to participate and their representation, the cooperative may create smaller focus groups depending on the service zone(s) created for this solicitation.  Meetings (in-person, webinar, and conference call) dates and times will be scheduled and coordinated with the focus group(s).   

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