On January 28th 2019, the Cincinnati School Board unanimously voted in favor of a resolution adopting the Good Food Purchasing Program in Cincinnati public schools. In 2017, Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) spent more than $7.7 million on food. By adopting this resolution, the school district takes an important step toward making sure those millions support not only healthy and delicious food for students, but also a strong local economy, fair working conditions for food sector workers, and sustainable and humane farming practices.
Last week’s resolution was the result of a two and a half year process led by a robust and diverse community-based coalition advocating for the Program. The coalition roll call included 33 different groups and organizations represented at the meeting. Close to 100 local residents filled the auditorium—including many students, parents, food industry workers, civil rights activists, and environmentalists. Among those donning orange armbands in support were Board of Education members Ozie Davis III, Ryan Messer, and Mike Moroski, who introduced the resolution. Davis III remarked, “There’s not often a coalition of this might for any subject matter; your commitment to the children of our district is commendable.”
A large number of participants signed up to speak, with 19 commenters and 50 minutes of public comment. Community members gave compelling testimony, speaking to the many facets of the Good Food Purchasing Program, why they support it, and how it would affect them and their communities. It was a powerful example of democracy in action, as the community played its part in shaping how our public resources are used.
The public comments period included comments from a student about the crushing effects of hunger that many students experience daily. Another participant, delivering her remarks in Spanish with help from an interpreter, spoke about her injuries as a result of negligence at a food packing plant where she worked for a company that has a contract with CPS for thousands of dollars. Another worker—identifying herself as a proud union member and a product of Cincinnati Public Schools—emphasized the importance of the participation of people of color, specifically African Americans, in the purchasing process. Area farmers, environmental sustainability advocates, and public health experts also spoke about how the Good Food Purchasing Program helps to support local, organic farmers and provide kids with the nutrition they need for healthy development. (A recording of the full session is available at https://youtu.be/B6qbGzKvrbg, with public comments starting around 47:00.)
In a statement, UFCW Local 75 President Kevin Garvey commended the Cincinnati Board of Education for passing the Good Food Purchasing Policy: “The board took a strong step towards providing strong incentives for food companies receiving taxpayer dollars to pay their workers a living wage, provide strong protections against workplace hazards, and otherwise move towards adopting more sustainable food production practices in a manner that bolsters Cincinnati’s local economy.”
“The Good Food Purchasing Program has energized food justice activists in Cincinnati,” says Brennan Grayson, director of the Cincinnati Interfaith Workers Center. “It brings a bold vision to food justice activism, one that brings people from all parts of the food chain together. And togetherness is what people need to make changes in the food system.”
Many thanks to the CPS Board, the food purchasing staff, and the Cincinnati Good Food Purchasing Program coalition members for their work advancing good food in Cincinnati.