Every year, public institutions across the United States—from school districts to city governments—spend $150 billion dollars on food with virtually no oversight over, or awareness of, under what conditions these foods were produced. Without accountability tools in place, companies that routinely cut corners along the supply chain continue to receive substantial public contracts at the expense of community health, worker wellbeing, animal welfare, and the environment.
The lack of transparency in the public procurement process and food supply chains denies communities the right to ensure shared community values can help shape how their own taxpayer dollars are spent, which is particularly important for low-income students for whom the majority of their meals come from school. Until institutions and the communities they serve are armed with better information about their supply chains, business as usual will continue.
First adopted by the City of Los Angeles and the LA Unified School District in 2012, the Good Food Purchasing Program provides a metric-based, flexible framework and set of tools that creates greater transparency and accountability in public food procurement and encourages large public institutions to direct their buying power toward five core values—local economies, environmental sustainability, valued workforce, nutritional health, and animal welfare.
Following adoption in Los Angeles, the Center for Good Food Purchasing was created to help respond to interest around the country, providing cities support for evaluation and implementation. In the last two years, the Center has partnered with three other national organizations—Food Chain Workers Alliance, the HEAL Food Alliance, and us at Real Food Media—to respond to interest in the Program from across the country. Thanks to all of us working together, and with partners on the ground, the Program has passed in public institutions Chicago, Oakland, and San Francisco. Today, the Program influences over $300 million in taxpayer dollars to improve the food system and increase access to healthier school meals for millions of students.
At Real Food Media, we work with partners across the country and local coalitions to build public support for Program adoption. We work closely with local coalitions at various stages of campaign development to tailor resources that address local political context and communications priorities. We also help tell the story of the local, and national, impact of the Program.
“Interest in the Good Food Purchasing Program has spread like wildfire, sparking efforts in Oakland, San Francisco, Austin, Chicago, the Twin Cities, New York, Cincinnati, and beyond. The scale of this expansion is nothing short of inspiring: the collective nationwide reach of these initiatives is soon expected to pass over 2 million meals every day.”
—Ricardo Salvador, Union of Concerned Scientists
Header photo by USDA