The Good Food Purchasing Program is a coordinated local-national initiative that harnesses the power of procurement to create a transparent and equitable food system, which prioritizes the health and well-being of people, animals, and the environment.
Through the Good Food Purchasing Program, cities, school districts and major institutions have access to tools and technical assistance that allow them to assess baseline purchasing practices, set goals and an action plan to increase Good Food purchases over time, track progress, and celebrate success. The Good Food Purchasing Program complements and enhances existing Good Food procurement efforts, like Farm to School, and supports institutions in providing healthy, high-quality meals.
The Good Food Purchasing Program provides a framework for building a unified national movement, bridging individual efforts in cities across the United States. It taps into the existing work of local multi-sectoral coalitions of labor unions, food and worker justice organizations, environmental, public health advocates, and animal welfare groups, and agencies in each participating city to ensure the policy addresses local needs and builds local ownership.
The Center for Good Food Purchasing was created in 2015 to guide the national expansion of the Good Food Purchasing Program, which was developed and tested in Los Angeles in 2012. The Center works closely with national partners, local food policy councils and grassroots coalitions, administrators, and elected leaders in cities across the United States to build a cohesive movement in support of Good Food purchasing.
To support successful implementation over time, the Center manages the Good Food Purchasing Program, helping participating institutions to:
- establish supply chain transparency from farm to fork
- evaluate how current purchasing practices align with Good Food Purchasing Standards
- assist with goal setting and provide technical support in helping institutions achieve their goals
- measure progress annually
- celebrate institutional successes in shifting towards a values-based purchasing model.
The Center issues a Good Food Provider verification seal to participating institutions that meet baseline requirements across the five value categories.
The five values are local economies, nutrition, a valued workforce, environmental sustainability and animal welfare. In most of the value categories, the Standards are based on nationally recognized third party certifications and product labels, such as USDA Organic or Marine Stewardship Council Certified. The Center for Good Food Purchasing facilitates a regular review of the Standards through an extensive expert and stakeholder review process.
While many procurement policies and initiatives focus on local or sustainable purchasing, the Good Food Purchasing Program sets a baseline standard in each of the five value categories to ensure that Good Food purchasing decisions incorporate a holistic set of considerations.
The model builds on various procurement priorities that are common in many institutions, such as local preferences and sweat-free purchasing, and brings these under a unified framework. By incorporating strong labor standards as an equal value, the Good Food Purchasing Program is one of the most comprehensive sets of food purchasing standards available.
Since institutions have varying priorities and constraints, the Good Food Purchasing Program uses a tiered, points-based aspirational model (similar to LEED Green Building Certification) to provide institutions the flexibility to meet goals in each value category using practical priorities and timelines.
Institutions commit to four things when they adopt a local Good Food Purchasing Policy:
- Meet at least the baseline standard in each of the five value categories, as outlined in the Good Food Purchasing Standards.
- Establish supply chain transparency to the farm of origin that enables the commitment to be verified and tracked over time.
- Incorporate the Good Food Purchasing Standards and reporting requirements into all new RFPs and contracts.
- Participate in the Center’s Program to verify compliance, measure progress, and celebrate success.
The Good Food Purchasing Policy is an expression of an institution’s values and a formal commitment to leverage its purchasing power to support local economies, nutrition, a valued workforce, environmental sustainability and animal welfare.
Once an institution adopts the Good Food Purchasing Policy, it works with the Center for Good Food Purchasing to implement the Good Food Purchasing Program.
The Good Food Purchasing Program provides a comprehensive set of tools, technical support, and rigorous verification system to assist institutions that have adopted the Good Food Purchasing Policy meet their goals over time.
When an institution adopts the Policy, it applies only to the adopting institution. For example, when the City of Los Angeles adopted the Good Food Purchasing Policy in 2012, it applied only to the City Departments that purchase food (including the Recreation & Parks Department, Department of Aging, Convention Center, etc.). Check out more details about the cities that have adopted the policy and have active campaigns here.
The Good Food Purchasing Program is aspirational, in that it rewards progress and recognizes that change takes time. When a local city adopts the Policy, it includes ongoing monitoring of Good Food purchases and provides the institution and local stakeholders with information to ensure that goals are being met. The Center for Good Food Purchasing provides an annual independent analysis of an institution’s purchasing data and provides individualized, branded materials to institutions that meet the scoring baseline in all five value categories. Scoring requires access to complete line item purchasing records, which institutions request from their vendors and/or distributors. The Center for Good Food Purchasing can also assist with identifying what records are needed and how to obtain them. The Center issues a Good Food Provider verification seal to participating institutions that meet baseline requirements across the five value categories. Learn more about the scoring system here.
Since implementation in 2012, Los Angeles Unified School District’s commitment to the Good Food Purchasing Program has demonstrated promising supply chain impacts.
For the over 600,000 students the District serves, the following impacts were found:
- HEALTHIER, REFORMULATED PRODUCTS, including lower-sodium bread products made without high fructose corn syrup
- SUSTAINABLE, LOCAL PRODUCTS: LAUSD’s bread distributor, Gold Star Foods, had been sourcing out-of-state wheat for its 45 million to 55 million annual servings of bread and rolls. Today, nearly all of the L.A. school district’s bread and rolls are made from wheat grown in Central California, milled in downtown Los Angeles. And prices stayed the same over the last three years. See the PolicyLink Gold Star case study (PDF)
- These impacts extend beyond LAUSD. Gold Star Foods, distributes these same products to over 550 school across the Western United States. See the PolicyLink Gold Star case study (PDF)
- LOCAL PRODUCE: $12 million re-directed to purchase local produce
- GOOD JOB CREATION: 220 new well-paying food chain jobs created in Los Angeles County, including food processing, manufacturing and distribution.
- FARM & FOOD WORKER RIGHTS:
- Contributed to higher wages and improved working conditions for 160 truck drivers in LAUSD’s supply chain.
- LAUSD School Board adopted a resolution calling on a major California grower, to honor its union contract with the United Farm Workers, representing 5,000 farm workers due to the Good Food Purchasing Program commitment.
- LESS MEAT, BETTER MEAT:
- 15% decrease in meat spend due to implementing Meatless Mondays
- $20 million five-year contract awarded for chicken produced free of routinely administered antibiotics. Before, the contract always went to the lowest bidder. This time around the district prioritized poultry suppliers that encompassed the Good Food Purchasing values.
- WATER SAVINGS: Estimated 19.6 million gallons of water saved each week by implementing “Meatless Mondays” See the PolicyLink Equitable Procurement policy brief (PDF)
Not necessarily. Evidence from Los Angeles Unified School District shows that institutions can improve food quality, without increasing costs and in some cases, actually decreasing costs through simple changes to their purchasing decisions.
Some food products may be more expensive, but there are many creative strategies that institutions employ to offset potential cost increases, such as shifting toward local producers to reduce travel and storage cost of perishables or redesigning menus to reduce relatively more expensive meat purchases and redirect to produce and alternative proteins. The Center for Good Food Purchasing can advise on which strategies may work best for an institution based on budget, current purchasing patterns, and short and long-term goals. The Center can also connect an institution to one of our many expert partners engaged in value chain innovations for additional technical support.
Program participation requires an investment in time for the institutions and Center for Good Food Purchasing staff. The Center for Good Food Purchasing will work with each institution to estimate the amount of time anticipated for participation and develop a customized projection of Program costs to the institution.
LOCAL COALITIONS/FOOD POLICY COUNCILS: Local coalitions play critical roles in the adoption and implementation process. These coalitions are organized into a network as part of the Good Food Purchasing Program, which provides opportunity for shared learning and trans-local coordination. Additionally, Food Chain Workers Alliance, a lead Good Food Purchasing Program partner, is available to provide trainings on coalition and movement-building, racial equity and justice along the food chain, and assist in developing local alignment as it relates to each of the five value categories. Connect with the resources page on the campaign site to get started.
INSTITUTIONS: A wide range of materials and technical assistance opportunities are available to institutions that participate in the Good Food Purchasing Program, including templates and processes for gathering purchasing data, customized branded materials to advertise the initiative to constituents, access to preferred supplier lists of producers who meet the highest levels in each value category, suggested bidding and contract language, and individualized technical support to set and meet Good Food Purchasing goals. See our resources page for further information about support and documentation available to institutions throughout the process.
The Standards were designed to support holistic and equitable food system change, with the recognition that meaningful shifts in the way food is produced happens best when all voices are in the conversation. All five values are equally weighted and should be implemented together. Some categories lend themselves to modifications, such as Local Economies, where the definition may depend on factors such as local production capacity. Get in touch with the Center to learn more about what options are available to modify the Standards.