Choice Partners purchasing cooperative offers quality, legal procurement and contract solutions to meet government purchasing requirements. We also meet all of the EDGAR/Uniform Guidance/2 CFR 200 requirements!

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Vendor Spotlight

Vendor Spotlight: Trident Beverage

Posted on May 28, 2019

Trident Beverage

More than 32 school districts in Texas plus several out-of-state members of Choice Partners Co-op count on Trident Beverage to supply students with smart snack compliant beverages on a daily basis. Once a district, college or university contracts to use Trident’s products, they remain long-term, satisfied customers.


Trident Beverage has been a Choice Partners awarded vendor for more than six years, expanding out to other states and all interested new members. The company began in 2004 in North Carolina as a small family-owned business when they created a 100-percent juice concentrate to be a smart snack compliant juice that met new federal regulations. Trident leads the market in change to help figh tobesity with no sugar added. Sweeteners used equal the value of fruit, such as pineapples, grapes or apples.


State and national dietetic concerns have created a need for “clean” labels. Trident has a leading edge on clean labels with options that include premium items with no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives.


Trident offers frozen and chilled beverages, iced tea and premium cold brew coffee. After-school programs can take advantage of pre-packaged, 6-ounce juice pouches and 4-ounce smoothie cups, both 100-percent juice. For K-12 school districts, all juices can be a menu item or served a la carte. From juice to slush usually takes 1 to 1.5 hours and is not labor intensive.


The dispensing machines are provided at no charge in exchange for regular monthly purchases of Trident products. Storage and mixing containers are available at a nominal cost. This has been an easy decision-maker for most customers. A cost of product vs. sales ratio generally produces a 66-percent return on investment per cup. One high school in Harris County, purchases 60 cases per month. This can equal a large growth for any child nutrition budget.


The product can be in dry storage for up to 16 months and, if stored at 40° F, can be chilled for up to four weeks because it is juice only—no pulp. Galveston ISD, has partnered with Trident Beverage for more than seven years. Using the drink pouches for the district’s after-school program has helped minimize waste since no refrigeration is needed and any unused packages can be stored for future use. “Trident offers wonderful products that meet criteria and student popularity with excellent customer service,” said Jennifer Douglas, the district’s director of child nutrition.


The favorite slushy flavors are blue raspberry and strawberry. Trident will introduce the following new premium flavors for next school year: mandarin orange, fruit punch, peach mango, strawberry, pink lemonade and cherry limeade.


Charles Peoples, territory manager for Trident, likes to say, “You can hang your hat on our service. We give you our word, then we do our word.”


This motto is echoed by Donna Pittenger, executive director of nutrition and food service with Katy ISD, who said they appreciate what Trident does for the district. “They roll out new products and their staff is right there to help with training or repairs,” she said. “They will also deliver extra products when needed.”


Demand for this tasty, slushy drink is so high that many schools host multiple dispensing machines. Michelle Keener, director of child nutrition service for Deer Park ISD, said the high-volume request for the beverage is “flat out the door.” The district has two sets of slushy machines at one elementary and has used the coffee and smoothie machines at the high school for two years.


Trident Beverage has warehouses across the nation to serve any interested governmental entity, directly or by a distributor, via Choice Partners contract #16/025TJ-02. For more information, contact Trident through Charles Peoples at 832-451-5794

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Vendor Spotlight: Smart Mouth

Posted on July 20, 2018


With the theme, “Feed MORE Teens … Guaranteed!,” Smart Mouth, a Choice Partners awarded vendor, has done just that and more. This pizza manufacturer offers all the ingredients, machinery and training for school nutrition staff members to make personal-sized pizzas in-house for that fresh-from-the-oven experience most middle and high school students desire. It is the only pizza with self-rising dough that is handmade and baked onsite. The focus of the company is helping feed more children and fund the schools. Smart Mouth is a resource to market to teens and help school districts grow their bottom line.

As a site-based pizza program, Smart Mouth creates a pro forma statement before any sale so the district can gauge the effect of introducing its novel way of offering pizza. Customers may purchase the ingredients like dough, sauce, pepperoni and small individual-size boxes as well as 100 percent mozzarella cheese. A pizza conveyor oven is a must for this product. Smart Mouth offers the option to purchase one or a district/campus may use one already onsite. Each customer contract guarantees three days of staff training to ensure proper use and quality control of the product produced. Chris Bomberger, director of child nutrition at Denton ISD, said the program is overwhelmingly successful.  “When you sign the contract, Smart Mouth helps you every step of the way. They train your staff staying for 3 days at every school where the program is implemented to ensure the end result is by their standards. Their follow-up is thorough. Smart Mouth is not a product; it is a concept,” Bomberger said.

As students age (like a good cheese), their interest in school food and cafeteria experiences decline.  Offering onsite fresh pizza engages their attention as well as palates.  This in turn creates a substantial revenue increase for any child nutrition director looking to do both. “I was given a directive by administration to increase revenue.  When I saw Smart Mouth Foods at the SNA conference, they shared their program that included equipment purchase plus product that would do just that,” said Cheryl Rayburg, Boerne ISD food service director. “Our director of purchasing found access to a Smart Mouth contract through the district’s membership in Choice Partners Co-op and we were able to move forward. A portion of the weekly product ordered contributed to the equipment purchase until it was paid in full.  We netted a $100K profit the first year.  It was a big plus for me to be able to use Smart Mouth through Choice Partners.”

Smart Mouth pizza meets all nutritional guidelines and with this company on your team, you have several avenues to build revenue. The pizza may be sold as an a la carte item for profit or can be bundled with a fruit or vegetable to meet the nutritional requirements as a reimbursable meal through Texas Department of Agriculture USDA. Either way helps to increase the child nutrition budget which benefits kitchen staff in meal planning. Frisco ISD nutrition coordinator Katherine Smith said Frisco uses Smart Mouth in special promotional offerings to students. “Smart Mouth has provided us the marketing tools we need to promote limited time offers that increased our reimbursable meals and a la carte sales. We serve over 27,000 reimbursable meals weekly with Smart Mouth.”

Log on to the Choice Partners website for more information about CP Smart Mouth contract #17/035TJ-01.  For more information about Smart Mouth, go to

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Buckeye brings world-class shimmer to facilities

Posted on October 5, 2016

Anyone who’s ever attempted to clean up a major spill with a minor amount of tissue understands that not all janitorial supplies are created equal. Whether you’re buffing a gymnasium floor or taking out the trash, it pays to know that you can rely on your vendor to deliver products that get the job done.

Buckeye Cleaning Center-Houston, a branch of Missouribased Buckeye International, knows the janitorial supplies industry inside and out, and members using its Choice Partners cooperative contract are riding high as a result.

“Buckeye is an exceptional vendor,” said Manuel Vasquez, assistant director of operations, Pearland ISD. “Floor finish looks as good on the last day of school as it does on the first – it lasts.”

Pearland ISD contracts with Buckeye for chemical supplies, paper supplies, dispensers, trash liners and equipment such as buffers to be used on the district’s 23 campuses. Vasquez gave Buckeye credit for helping his facilities look as polished as can be.

“We have developed a good partnership that has helped keep our schools looking world-class,” he said.

Other members who use Buckeye’s Choice Partners contract for janitorial supplies echoed Vasquez’s statements about excellent customer service and industry-leading knowledge.

“Buckeye’s customer service is top-notch,” said Scott Bryce, operations supervisor, Deer Park ISD. “I can email or call them at any time.”

“Excellent quality, excellent service,” said Nancy Dunn, school district buyer. “Each and every contact with this vendor is pleasant, efficient and leaves me with complete faith that we are in great hands.”

While Buckeye brings the expertise and customer-friendly approach, members said, Choice Partners cooperative purchasing contracts make their jobs even easier.

“I know it saves time, as our operations folks hold a high standard and only want specific products,” Dunn said, “and being able to buy those items through the co-op is an asset.”

Speaking of assets, Bryce mentioned yet another reason why cooperative purchasing is the way to go.

With Choice Partners contracts, “We have certain vendors who are easier to use, and we usually get a better price,” he said.

Buckeye Cleaning Center’s contract is national, so members across the nation may access their products through the Choice Partners contract. To learn more about Buckeye and its Choice Partners contract, go to vendors/buckeye-cleaning-center-6 or call 281-873-4200. 

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Best Practices in Procurement: Three Tips from Top Specialists

Posted on September 7, 2016

Jesus Amezcua, Pam Perkins and Mark RogersSchool purchasing professionals “have a lot to keep up with,” according to Pam Perkins, program specialist, Consumer Protection Division of the Texas Attorney General’s Office. Perkins, who has spent many years investigating claims of illegal purchasing activity such as price-fixing and bid-rigging, was one of three experts to speak on August 25 at Harris County Department of Education for a joint meeting of HCDE’s School Finance Council and TASBO’s Gulf Coast chapter.

More than 80 school business leaders went to hear Perkins speak, along with Mark Rogers, a longtime procurement specialist, and Sarah Langlois, an attorney with Rogers, Morris and Grover, LLP. The three presenters shared their expertise on a number of procurement-related issues and offered the following as advice.

1. Perception is reality.

Both Perkins and Rogers emphasized the importance not just of transparent purchasing practices but of withstanding varying levels of public scrutiny – from careless speculation to full-fledged audits.

“Avoid the intent and appearance of unethical or compromising practices,” Rogers said, emphasizing that even the appearance of misconduct can be enough to cause harm to an organization. Perkins agreed.

“Welcome the openness,” she said. “Conduct yourself as if everything you do will end up in the newspaper.”

While actual purchasing law does not always match the public’s perception of what it should be – or, as Perkins put it, “just because you think something is hinky doesn’t mean it’s against the law” – both presenters agreed nevertheless that purchasing professionals have an obligation to show the public that their hands are clean.

“Just because you can doesn’t mean you should,” Perkins said, summing it up.

2. Sole source providers are rare.

As many procurement professionals know, the law provides exemptions from the traditional “get three quotes” bidding process for purchases that are so unique that they can’t be acquired from multiple vendors. The relative ease of procuring from so-called “sole source providers,” however, has led many participants in the education and government markets to use the term too loosely.

“There must be no functional equivalent in the marketplace” for a product or service to qualify as sole source, according to Langlois, which means that sole source providers are actually “very rare.”

Perkins pointed out that many companies – particularly those with patented products or proprietary processes, such as software developers – mislead clients into believing that they are sole source providers in order to hurry a deal through to close. Others simply misunderstand the law or interpret it too loosely. Purchasing professionals must do their due diligence to verify that vendors claiming to be sole source providers actually are, while understanding that, in most cases, they probably aren’t.

3. Cooperative purchasing helps.

Membership in a purchasing cooperative – especially one like HCDE Choice Partners that does its due diligence and operates according to the “gold standard” of procurement – has a way of easing concerns about legality and trust, but co-op members still have some work to do to make sure their resources are being used properly.

“Everybody benefits” when it comes to co-ops, Rogers said, pointing out that school districts both large and small can rely on the “toolbox” of cooperative contracts when their needs exceed their own means.

It is the responsibility of the entity, however, to verify that a vendor holds an up-to-date contract with a fully compliant co-op.

“Make sure vendors are on the up and up,” he said.

Learning about a co-op’s contracts, verifying its legality, and making use of networking events to check references are all ways to get the most out of cooperative purchasing. 

For more information about HCDE Choice Partners contracts, or to become a member, go to

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Teaching Systems gets straight A’s on quality, service

Posted on August 4, 2016

Robots run around the room. 3D printers create architectural designs, dioramas, models of body parts – you name it. Laser machines engrave detailed artwork and maps on wood and carve chess sets out of stone. Is this Earth in the year 2200, perhaps? Actually, it’s today’s STEM-friendly classroom, thanks to Teaching Systems Inc.

“Teaching Systems works on getting the things we need,” said Don Kelly, a career and technical education specialist at Garland Independent School District. With Teaching Systems’ help, Kelly added, Garland ISD was even able to take advantage of a special “buy four, get two free” deal on 3D printers with Makerbot. 

“We just enjoy working with them,” he said.

Teaching Systems employees not only find the right deals and products for their customers, but they never fail to follow through.

‘Easy to work with’ every step of the way

Northside Independent School District Instructional Specialist Rosanna Perez mentioned that if she ever has a problem, Teaching Systems is sure to take care of it immediately. Because “success is the most important thing” to her and her students, the Teaching Systems staff know they need to make every product work

Perez was not the only customer who said that Teaching Systems goes above and beyond to meet with Choice Partners members face-to-face and get them what they need.

“What I like about them most is that they actually come to El Paso and present their products,” said Eric Winkelman, director of career and technical education at El Paso Independent School District.

“They come on a regular basis, stop by and visit the teachers,” he added.

Winkelman also mentioned that El Paso ISD has been working with Teaching Systems for almost 20 years, and just one time was there an issue with shipping. However, he said that when Teaching Systems employees became aware of the problem, they apologized, took responsibility and quickly overnighted the product.

“They’ve always been easy to work with,” he explained.

Kelly cited an incident last year in which Garland ISD had difficulty fixing its broken embroidery machines. Teaching Systems not only helped them fix the machines but also set up future trainings for the teachers. Instead of leaving Garland ISD teachers on their own, Teaching Systems remained involved in the training process every step of the way.

Fluent in partnership and success

When Northside ISD knew that it would need learning labs for students taking foreign language AP classes due to a requirement to record and send MP3 files, it had to go with an option that could provide a seamless user experience.

“We wanted something that would work 100 percent of the time,” Perez said.

Naturally, the choice was Teaching Systems, who Perez says has a “really good” relationship with the Northside ISD technology department.

Teaching Systems provided the equipment for the language labs, as well as staff development and training resources for foreign language teachers.

“Our teachers feel comfortable with Teaching Systems,” Perez said. “They are more than a vendor; they’re a partner.”

Accessing Teaching Systems’ awarded contract through Choice Partners has been a plus for members.

“We’re satisfied with how smooth it’sbeen using co-op purchasing for Teaching Systems,” Winkelman said.

Employees at Teaching Systems agreed that working with a co-op has been a win-win. According to President and Vice President of Operations Kim Savage, Choice Partners has allowed for a “streamlined process” in business, bringing purchase orders in quickly through an awarded contract. She noted that the shortened bidding process is beneficial to both Teaching Systems and customers. 

“A lot of purchase orders have been able to come in because we’ve already been awarded a contract and that’s what [customers are] looking for,” Savage said. “When we say that we’re a Choice Partners contract, then it’s an order
immediately for both of us.”

To learn more about Teaching Systems and its Choice Partners contract, go to or call 817-417-7775 or for local sales representatives, please visit

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Borden quality service never expires

Posted on May 26, 2016

It’s no secret that when it comes to putting tasty and nutritional food in front of millions of children, today’s schools face a logistical challenge on par with going to the mooooooon and back. That’s why it’s important to contract with a dairy vendor, like Borden, willing to pamper its customers with excellent service.

“Borden responds to concerns in a timely manner. Their customer service team stays in constant communication with us regarding missing orders or other issues,” said Kara Lam, assistant director, Child Nutrition, Humble Independent School District. “They are willing to adjust routes to accommodate holiday schedules, school openings and closings, et cetera. They take care of the logistics so we don’t have to worry.”

“Overall, we’ve been very happy with Borden’s products and service,” said Christopher Kamradt, director, Child Nutrition Services, Spring Branch ISD. “If I were asked if I would recommend Borden, I would unequivocally say yes.”

It’s helpful to know that Borden’s Choice Partners contract is flexible enough to yield more than just milk. The company delivers other healthy and refreshing items such as 100% juices, brewed tea, cultured products and yogurt – all stamped with both Elsie’s signature smile and Choice Partners’ seal of approval.

“[We are] very satisfied with Choice Partners as a whole, with how they do business and how they treat us,” Kamradt said. “Choice Partners makes our lives that much easier.”

La Porte ISD Director of School Nutrition Yvonne Bennett agreed that Choice Partners stays on top of the purchasing process and keeps the lines of communication open.

“We have not had a problem at all,” Bennett said, referring to Choice Partners. “And we know that they are in compliance.”

For more information, contact David Wood at 713-724-5872 or visit

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