Toward a Good Food Future
The Good Food Purchasing Program:
PART I: 2012-2019
Toward a Good Food Future
The Good Food Purchasing Program:
PART I: 2012-2019
PART ONE of this report provides an overview of the Program’s vision, an introduction to how it works, and highlights of its accomplishments over the past eight years. This report is a tool for Program partners—local coalitions, institutions, national organizations, and funders—to gain a deeper understanding of the Program’s history and scope; educate potential allies and collaborators; and continue building our momentum!
PART TWO of the report will be released in late 2020 and will explore these themes in greater detail, with additional case studies and expanded data analysis.
The Good Food Purchasing Program transforms the way public institutions purchase food based on principles of equity, accessibility, and transparency, and rooted in five core values: local economies, valued workforce, nutrition, animal welfare, and environmental sustainability.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
My hope is that the growing Good Food Purchasing Program will bring the issue of food justice to a wider audience and build momentum for systemic change. So many of us take food for granted as a basic need that has to be met without realizing that the food supply chain is rife with abuses—of workers, animals, environment, and health—and we have the power to change that.
City of Boston Councilor At-Large
The impact of these institutional food service contracts is substantial. Around the country, officials and administrators pore over the minutiae in purchasing contracts for bread rolls and chicken, milk cartons and salad greens. Their decisions about what food to buy and which vendors to select are often dictated by law toward the cheapest bid, but many are working to change that, asking: shouldn't food reflect our values?
Every year, taxpayer funded institutions—from school districts to hospitals to city agencies—spend billions of dollars on food.
Institutional food service contracts represent:
The federal government also makes significant investments in food procurement, spending a total of more than
on school meals, summer meals, and supplemental food programs alone in 2018.
That's a lot of money.
(And a big opportunity.)
What if institutions invested that money in buying food for health and equity?
The Good Food Purchasing Program assists public institutions in using a values-based approach to food procurement: evaluating products and suppliers not only through a cost lens, but also by the social, economic, and environmental benefits they provide.
Throughout this report, you'll be introduced to:
key ACTORS supporting the realization of a good food vision
Support from local and national FUNDERS ensures that Good Food Purchasing Program policy commitments are implemented meaningfully, with ongoing tracking, active improvement, and effective communication across the values. They also enable the Program to scale so that more institutions can participate and collective purchasing power can be leveraged to create transformative changes in food supply chains.
REAL FOOD MEDIA works closely with the core partners to set national strategy for narrative-building and framing that supports local coalitions, institutional partners, and other national allies in communicating the stakes, opportunities, and impact of the Good Food Purchasing Program. Real Food Media also accompanies local coalitions in setting strategy for their campaigns and celebrating victories at various phases, including coalition-building, policy adoption, and key media moments.
Across the communications work, partners aim to center the experiences and voices of women, youth, and people of color—communities who are most marginalized by food system injustices and can benefit the most from a policy that prioritizes racial and worker justice and includes tools for accountability and transparency.
Key to each city-based campaign's success are local and multi-sector coalitions, grassroots organizing capacity, supportive administrators, and political champions. The FOOD CHAIN WORKERS ALLIANCE helps grow these critical components of a successful campaign, ensuring local coalitions are made up of diverse stakeholders that represent various sectors of the food chain. With the Alliance’s support, the local coalitions drive campaign development and the adoption process, and, once a Policy is adopted, help hold the participating institution accountable to their commitments.
The CENTER FOR GOOD FOOD PURCHASING is the centralized home for the Good Food Purchasing Program and coordinates with local and national partners to expand and implement the Program. The Center works to develop and update the Good Food Purchasing Standards, fielding input from a wide range of food system experts and community groups. Center staff support institutions through training, assessment, and technical assistance to help them track and meet their Program commitments and celebrate successes. The Center also assists local coalitions who are interested in bringing the Program to their city to identify next steps.
Cross-sectoral, community-driven LOCAL COALITIONS help ensure that Program adoption and implementation in a city or region reflects community priorities and complements the existing work and expertise on the ground in that city. Local coalitions help identify and recruit institutions to adopt the program, secure formal program adoption through policy (such as school board resolution or citywide ordinance), and influence the public procurement process to ensure institutions and their vendors are held accountable to their policy commitments and that public contracts reflect community priorities, such as goals around increasing opportunities for producers of color in supply chains.
INSTITUTIONS like school districts and municipal government agencies that enroll in the Good Food Purchasing Program commit to meeting the baseline standard in each of the Program’s five values, incorporating the Good Food Purchasing Standards and reporting requirements into solicitations and contracts, establishing supply chain transparency to verify performance, and reporting on progress annually.
Meet Our Good Food Purchasing Partners
Hover on each to learn more
Leading national food and farm organizations support expansion and implementation of the Program by promoting the Program at large and supporting individual city-based campaigns. NATIONAL PARTNERS support adoption campaign organizing, provide research, manage communications, provide value category education and strategy, and activate their networks in support of policy adoption and implementation.
Creative ways Program partners are advancing a values based food system
Throughout this report, you'll be introduced to:
keep an eye out for this icon to hover and learn more about these strategies
You'll find these examples throughout the report highlighting
how coalitions and institutions are leveling up their efforts:
HOVER ON THE ICONS TO LEARN ABOUT THE STRATEGY
Many Good Food Purchasing Program policies include an annual hearing from the adopting body (e.g. school board, city council) on progress made during the past year of implementation efforts. Having a regular touchpoint allows food service leaders to celebrate their successes in a public setting and share challenges they have encountered. It also provides a mechanism by which coalitions can ensure that implementation is moving forward meaningfully. In LAUSD, the local coalition led by the Los Angeles Food Policy Council has worked with the school board and administration to conduct annual hearings in each of the last three years.
After a few years of making gains across a number of value categories, Austin Independent School District wanted to go all in on achieving the baseline in the five values and earn a four star rating. So, they raised funds for and hired a Good Food Purchasing Program consultant in 2018 to help them get there. AISD succeeded in passing a policy in February 2019 and is one of the participating institutions to watch, for its many procurement innovations and menu creativity.
In some communities, listening sessions have helped stakeholders to identify priorities for Good Food Purchasing Program implementation. In the Twin Cities, a farmer listening session held in December 2018 helped coalition leaders identify the primary barriers preventing small farmers of color from entering into institutional supply chains. In Washington DC, the school district held a listening session to share their baseline assessment findings, answer questions, and solicit feedback on next steps, to make sure the process is transparent and that community members have an avenue to participate.
Community Listening Sessions
To date, twelve cities and institutions have adopted Good Food Purchasing policies formalizing their commitment to the Program. The advantage of policy adoption is that this commitment becomes codified and thus can outlast a superstar food service director’s tenure or visionary elected champion’s administration. A policy can also create the framework for community engagement and accountability.
Pioneers in the Farm-to-School movement laid the groundwork in demonstrating that values-based, aggregated purchasing power can drive changes in the market. In fact, as the Center has measured changes in the purchase of chicken raised without routine antibiotic use over the last few years, we’ve been able to see the legacy of leaders like Natural Resources Defense Council—which led efforts to reduce antibiotic use in chickens raised as part of fast food supply chains and School Food Focus, which led the creation of the CRAU (Certified Responsible Antibiotic Use) label and built upon that momentum to make products available in the K-12 market—manifested in measurable gains for the institutions we work with.
Building on Farm-to-School
The Good Food Purchasing Program brings stakeholders from across sectors together to work collaboratively on locally-relevant changes to procurement practices. In some cities, a central office (e.g. the Department of Public Health in Chicago and the Austin Office of Sustainability) engages food purchasing departments to drive implementation forward and consider ways to engage public and private institutions from within other sectors and jurisdictions.
Agencies convened in New York City by the Mayor’s Office are considering ways to modify existing processes to be more collaborative in their procurements and create new mechanisms for obtaining products that align with the standards. The Program also brings advocates for Good Food Purchasing together outside of city structures. Local coalitions in many cities are composed of non-profit and private sector partners who hold local knowledge about the five values and advocate for effective implementation.
Thinking creatively about what you’re putting on the menu and how often is a key strategy to success in the Program. Sometimes, a new or reformulated menu item will allow you to incorporate a more expensive, higher quality product that wouldn’t be possible under the existing menu—such as grass-fed beef and specialty produce.
Menu Frequency & Creativity
Meatless Mondays or similar programs can contribute to overall reduction in the amount of meat purchased and served by an institution, and can be part of a strategy to improve the healthfulness of the menu by encouraging more plant-based options, reducing the environmental footprint of food services, and decreasing overall costs. A number of schools and university campuses across the country have implemented Meatless Monday initiatives. For participating institutions, these programs complement the Good Food Purchasing Program and can increase their scores in the nutrition, sustainability, and animal welfare categories of the Good Food Purchasing Standards.
First things first.
Why is the Good Food Purchasing Program so urgently needed?
The expansion of industrial food around the world has come at a high cost for biodiversity, while at the same time exploiting workers, mistreating animals, and making us sick through poor diets and polluted environments. Low-income communities and communities of color are the most directly impacted by the negative impacts of our food system.
What's wrong with our food system?
Local communities have lost economic power
As economic power becomes more concentrated, consumers, workers, and farmers are marginalized from making decisions about our food system, with people of color especially excluded. Many agribusiness and food corporations make large profits which are mostly taken out of local communities and influence the political process.
Over the course of the last 60 years, decisions about food and farming have shifted increasingly to the corporate sector.
Food workers are often exploited
In the United States today, 21.5 million people are employed in jobs along the food chain.
growing, harvesting, processing, butchering, transporting, preparing, selling, and serving food. Many food workers are subjected to injustices, including wage theft, pesticide exposure, racial and ethnic discrimination, unsafe working conditions, sexual harassment, and lack of access to health benefits.
Seven out of ten of the lowest-paying jobs in the United States are food jobs:
Our food is making us sick
Many people around the country—particularly low-income people and communities of color—have limited access to healthy food and are often surrounded by foods that are high in sugar, salt, and fat. Poor diets increase the risk of diet-related chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.
1 in 4 young adults is pre-diabetic.
African American adults are 60 percent more likely than white adults to have been diagnosed with diabetes.
Animals are mistreated
Genetically bred for maximum production, they frequently suffer from abnormalities like heart failure and broken bones. On factory farms, large numbers of animals are often kept under constant stress in densely-crowded conditions and given steady doses of antibiotics to compensate for unsanitary conditions.
More than 99 percent of the animals raised for meat, dairy, and eggs in the United States are raised in confined, intensive, and controlled operations known as factory farms.
The environment and climate suffer
Industrial agriculture harms our environment, farmers, workers, and rural communities.
This model is characterized by monocultures, heavy use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and intensive livestock operations.
Monocultures deplete natural soil fertility, replacing it with costly and often toxic chemical fertilizers, while causing soil erosion that leaves the land vulnerable to the effects of climate change.
We have a different vision
It includes things like well-paying “green” jobs, reductions in meat consumption and food waste, more accessible and energy-efficient transportation, and greater economic and racial equity. Policymakers, school boards, youth, food purchasing directors, food policy councils, farmers, small business, and experts across various fields are coming together in a democratic exchange of ideas to shape this new vision.
Some examples include:
Institutional food procurement is a powerful tool that can help us make our vision a reality.
Around the country, cities, institutions, and communities have a different vision for the world we want to live in.
The Good Food Purchasing Values
Five equally weighted value categories drive the Program's vision and provide the basis for its procurement framework. It's the first model of its kind to use this holistic approach.
Provide safe and healthy working conditions and fair compensation for all food chain workers and producers from production to consumption.
Support diverse, family and cooperatively owned, small and mid-sized agricultural and food processing operations within the local area or region.
Source from producers that provide healthy and humane conditions for farm animals.
Promote health and well-being by offering generous portions of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and minimally processed foods, while reducing salt, added sugars, saturated fats, and red meat consumption and eliminating artificial additives.
Source from producers that employ sustainable production systems to reduce or eliminate synthetic pesticides and fertilizers; avoid the use of hormones, routine antibiotics and genetic engineering; conserve and regenerate soil and water; protect and enhance wildlife habitats and biodiversity; and reduce on-farm energy and water consumption, food waste and greenhouse gas emissions. Reduce menu items that have high carbon and water footprints, using strategies such as plant forward menus, which feature smaller portions of animal proteins in a supporting role.
Buying local matters.
Purchasing food from local farms and businesses helps strengthen local and regional economies. It’s especially important for local food procurement to work towards benefiting historically marginalized suppliers such as business-owners and producers of color.
A study of farm-to-school programs, which connect school food procurement with local food producers, showed that every dollar spent stimulates an additional $0.60-$2.16 of local economic activity.
local food purchases can stimulate
the economic activity per dollar spent
Photo: Soul Fire Farm
MEDIAN ANNUAL FOOD SPEND TOWARD LOCAL ECONOMIES
Over the past six years, institutions enrolled in the Good Food Purchasing Program have nearly doubled their annual spend on foods supporting diverse, family and cooperatively owned, small and mid-sized agricultural and food processing operations within the local area or region.
Photo: Soul Fire Farm
Institutions can help ensure that food procurement dollars support the health and wellbeing of food workers, from farm to fork.
Unions and other worker-led groups are organizing numerous campaigns, with widespread consumer support, to hold food companies accountable and promote policies that improve wages and working conditions.
Over the past six years, institutions have directed
$20 million toward suppliers with union wages and worker protections
supported the creation of new jobs, and increased efforts to ensure safe and healthy working conditions and fair compensation for all food chain workers and producers from production to consumption through participation in the Good Food Purchasing Program.
Half of a child's daily calories are consumed in school.
With strategic planning, schools can leverage their purchasing to provide more nutritious (and less processed) food to their students without exceeding their budgets.
To date, institutions have collectively increased their purchase of whole and minimally processed food items by about 5 percent and are on track to meet this target.
While 75 percent of the meat institutions currently purchase is processed or red meat, they have committed to reducing the amount of processed and red meat they purchase by 5 percent per year.
Participating institutions are currently purchasing 42 percent whole foods or minimally processed foods, with a commitment to increasing the total amount by 25 percent in five years.
Market demand for farm animal welfare is high.
Polls show 94 percent of Americans agree
that farm animals deserve to live free from abuse and cruelty.
Institutions can help animals live better lives by reducing meat consumption and increasing demand for humanely-raised animal products.