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Contact us via email or call us in-state toll-free between 9:00am and 5:00pm MT at 1.888.231.9393, Local 406.444.3095

Have a Media Inquiry?
Emilie Ritter Saunders, Communications Director, 406.444.3160


Questions or concerns about this webpage?
Please contact the OPI Help Desk at or 406.444.0087

School Nutrition

The School Nutrition Programs unit administers school-based child nutrition programs throughout Montana on behalf of the Office of Public Instruction's Health Enhancement and Safety Division.

 Click here for the School Year 2016-17 Administrative Review Schedule
Updated on 07/20/2016

Program Requirements Forms and Guidelines

professional standards


community eligibility
current events
direct certification
nutrition standards
food service
school wellness

Nondiscrimination Statement

Mission Statement: To ensure schools provide nutritious meals and promote healthy lifestyles through collaborative education and training, and administration of the USDA School Nutrition Programs.

Cooperative Purchase Program - IMPORTANT UPDATES

UPDATE! The OPI Cooperative Purchase Program is now administered by Southwest Montana School Services

The Office of Public Instruction School Nutrition Programs appreciates the long-term support of the OPI Cooperative Purchase Program by Montana districts.  The OPI has been administering a Cooperative Purchase Program for Montana school districts since 1981. The program helped small and medium sized school districts in the state to combine food orders for improved buying power. We are hopeful that the approximately 125 School Food Authorities that participate in the OPI Cooperative Purchase Program with every bid cycle will see a smooth transition with the new administration of the program. A bid for the Fall 2016-17 school year is posted and order forms will be sent to districts later in the spring. 

If you have questions about the transition of the program, please contact Bruce Grubbs, Executive Director Southwest Montana School Services at or 406.624.3336.

OPI Cooperative Purchase Program

Clarification Regarding the Change in Management:

  1. Who is taking over the OPI Cooperative Purchase Program?
  2. Will Cindy Giese still be working with SWMSS?
    • Yes! Cindy Giese is excited to continue working as a part-time employee for SWMSS as the manager of the bid; the same position that she held with OPI.
    • Cindy will continue to ensure that all products offered through SWMSS meet USDA meal pattern requirements. Nutrition information will still be provided for all items ordered through SWMSS.
    • Cindy’s contact information at SWMSS is and her phone number remains the same at 406.366.9829.  
  3. You may be confused because you received a message from a different group purchasing organization regarding OPI’s discontinuation of the Cooperative Purchase Program. What does this mean?
    • Though OPI is no longer administering the Cooperative Purchase Program, it is being administered by SWMSS and will continue to operate in the Fall. School districts who participated in the OPI Cooperative Purchase Program can expect a smooth transition and continued cost savings through high volume bid purchasing with SWMSS if they choose to continue to participate in the program.
    • To clarify, there is more than one group purchasing organization available to school districts in Montana.  
  4. How will I order for next school year?
    • Order forms will be sent to school districts by SWMSS in the spring for your Fall 2016-17 orders.
    • As always, the program will be available to all interested Montana public and private schools, and residential child care institutions that participate in the National School Lunch Program.  
  5. USDA Federal regulations require that school districts must ensure Federal funds that are used to purchase food for school meals are competitively purchased. How do I ensure that I am following Federal procurement rules if I choose to participate in a group purchasing organization?
    • School districts must review solicitation documents, such as the IFB (invitation for bid) or RFP (request for proposal) prior to entering into a contract with a group purchasing organization.
    • The SWMSS IFB (invitation for bid) Document has been posted at The SWMSS publicly available IFB shows they are providing competitive pricing as required by USDA Federal regulations.
    • The 2016 Fall Bid Item List can also be found on the SWMSS website at

This school year, the OPI School Nutrition Programs has begun conducting additional procurement monitoring and training to assist districts with compliance of the rules. For additional guidance on procurement oversight and compliance, here are two recent USDA Policy memos:

Local Agency Procurement Reviews SY2015-2016                                           

How should a State agency monitor School Food Authorities (SFAs) contracting with group purchasing organizations or group buying organizations?
State agencies are reminded that when Program operators conduct procurement activities cooperatively, the cooperative must comply with procurement regulations in the same way as an individual Program operator. Also, when a third-party organization conducts the solicitation process on behalf of Program operators, a compliant competitive solicitation must be conducted for these services. It is not sufficient to simply become a member of the third party organization by paying a fee (i.e., membership, distribution, or other fee). Further compliance issues are raised when a third-party organization offers to provide services at no cost to the Program operator, while charging a fee to the distributor, without the benefit of a competitive solicitation process that outlines this payment method. The solicitation for these services must include provisions and language that clearly articulates Federal procurement requirements, including Program requirements, as these entities purchase products and services that will be paid using Federal Program funds. This applies to all entities buying products and services on behalf of SFAs, FSMCs, as well as other third-party entities.

Compliance with and Enforcement of the Buy American Provision in the NSLP 

For more information about proper procurement procedures, contact School Nutrition Programs at 406.444.2501.