In 2018, the Cook County Board of Commissioners adopted a groundbreaking food procurement policy, championed by its Commission on Social Innovation, which placed racial justice at the center of the County’s Good Food Purchasing Program commitment by including specific goals and strategies to address inequitable access to institutional supply chains for growers and food business owners of color. For this leadership, we honor the Cook County Board of Commissioners as our 2018 Good Food Policy Hero.
Cook County spends over $20 million on food annually for its hospitals and prisons, and the County’s adoption ensures that public funds spent on foods by those agencies prioritize businesses that demonstrate a track record of investing in and hiring from low-to-moderate income communities, encourage the agencies to partner with universities and social enterprises to provide technical assistance to emerging and disadvantaged businesses, and support incentives and preference for:
- Businesses hiring in low-to-moderate income communities and persons with prior arrests and/or prison records;
- Vendors/producers based in specific low-income areas of the county;
- Access and control over County-owned land for minority-owned/controlled social enterprises and land trusts for farming; and,
- Farms growing organically and using bio-intensive methods
Says Commissioner Jesús “Chuy” Garcia, the Chair of the Commission on Social Innovation: “This initiative goes hand-in-hand with a growing recognition in Cook County of the important role of minority-owned small businesses and worker cooperatives, which are a driver for economic and social empowerment in many of our disinvested communities.”
The strategies included in the policy define explicit pathways for Cook County to meet its commitment to the values of local economies, environmental sustainability, a valued workforce, animal welfare, and nutrition which are at the heart of the Good Food Purchasing Program’s mission to create a transparent and equitable food system built on social justice and racial equity.
Commissioner Marc Lane shares how including these strategies in their Good Food Purchasing Program adoption can be an example for other municipalities: “By incorporating social equity criteria into its [procurement decisions], Cook County once again sets the standard which we hope other government units – and businesses – throughout the nation will follow.”
In particular, we would like to recognize the following Commissioners and Commission staff for their critical efforts to ensure that these important goals were included in the final adopted policy:
- Commissioner Jesús “Chuy” Garcia: Chair of the Commission on Social Innovation
- Commissioner Marc Lane: Vice Chair of the Commission on Social Innovation
- Commissioner Victor Dickson: Chair Social Capital Committee
- Commissioner Valerie Leonard: Social Capital Committee
- Commission Staffers: Lilian Jimenez and Victoria Moreno