By: Brittany Flaherty Theis

Illinois school officials will have greater flexibility in choosing food service vendors other than just settling on the lowest bid under a bill signed into law by Gov. J.B. Pritzker last week. Jehan Gordon-Booth, the 92nd District representative, introduced the bill in January of this year. The bill passed both houses in April and was sent to the Governor in May. He approved the bill on June 29, 2022.

Public Act 102-1101, also known as the “Better School Lunches Act,” allows school districts to look beyond just dollars-and-cents to consider other factors when selecting food service vendors, including if the company uses locally sourced ingredients or is owned by minorities, women, or people with disabilities.

The Better School Lunches Act exempts districts from contract bidding requirements if a “good faith effort is made” to give preference to contracts that:

  1. Procure food that promotes the health and well-being of students, in compliance with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) standards;
  2. give preference to State or regional suppliers that “source local food products;”
  3. give preference to food suppliers that utilize producers that adopt hormone and pest practices recommended by the USDA;
  4. give preference to food suppliers that value animal welfare; and
  5. increase opportunities for businesses owned and operated by minorities, women, or persons with disabilities.

The law, which takes effect immediately, also requires food supplier data to be submitted to the school district at the time of the bid and updated each year. The required data includes the name and address of each supplier, distributor, processor, and producer involved in the food the bidder is to supply.

Whitt Law attorneys are well-versed in the Illinois School Code, personnel issues, property tax, and education law. Please contact Brittany Flaherty Theis or Brian R. Bare if you have any questions regarding this blog post, food service, public bidding, or other contract matters impacting your school district.