The Good Food Purchasing Program provides a metric based, flexible framework that encourages large institutions to direct their buying power toward five core values: local economies, environmental sustainability, valued workforce, animal welfare and nutrition. The Good Food Purchasing Program is the first procurement model to support these food system values in equal measure.



Strategies in this category have been identified based on their importance as part of implementing values-based procurement to create a more equitable, accountable, and transparent food system—the core principles of the Good Food Purchasing Program.


  • Share purchasing data, assessment(s), purchasing targets, and/or implementation plans in a publicly accessible location with community members to facilitate engagement and transparency.
  • Dedicate staff time to engaging with community members (including, but not limited to, people served by meal programs, food service workers, constituents, and local food businesses) in informing values-based purchasing decisions and processes.
  • Have or develop a supplier/vendor diversification plan with goals that include reporting and accountability measures. Measures should be disaggregated by demographic group, including race and gender. Plan implementation should prioritize purchases and address barriers to entry for suppliers who have experienced negative systemic social and/or economic impacts such as (but not limited to) women, veterans, persons with disabilities, and especially people of color, across all supply chains and to the greatest extent possible.
  • Develop and implement comprehensive institutional policy(ies) that reflect community needs and values and prioritize transparency, racial equity, local economies, environmental sustainability, valued workforce, animal welfare, and community health and nutrition within their operations and food procurement. Ensure these institutional policies are embedded in agreements for contracted food services and that mechanisms are developed to ensure compliance and accountability through reporting and active contract management.


Vibrant and resilient regional economies allow communities to regain power in decision-making about their local food system and the land that supports it. When buying power remains within a regional economy—across production, processing, manufacturing and distribution in a given region—it creates shorter, more resilient supply chains and the potential for a circular economy. In a circular economy, different sectors are mutually reinforcing.


To strengthen equity and resilience in a local economy, institutional procurement and related strategies should:

  • Prioritize local suppliers, especially small and mid-sized farms, manufacturers, and food businesses that are privately, cooperatively, or nonprofit owned and operated within a 250 mile radius.
  • Prioritize suppliers that are entrepreneurs of color and community members most impacted by current and historic economic marginalization.
  • Leverage institutional buying power, infrastructure, financial resources, staff time, and land in support of community members, food producers, and food workers who have experienced negative systemic social and/or economic impacts.
  • Build partnerships with community members to ensure that food products and menus reflect the interests and cultures of everyone they serve.
  • Identify pathways for purchasing from small and community-based suppliers for products that can’t be grown or harvested within the mileage limitations, such as seafood, coffee, cocoa, and sugar.


Qualifying products come from privately, cooperatively, or non-profit owned and operated businesses of any size within 250 miles (500 miles for meat, poultry, and seafood).


Environmentally sustainable farms and food businesses build healthy ecosystems by improving soil health, increasing biodiversity, reducing the use of fossil fuel-based pesticides and fertilizers, and reducing the carbon and water footprint of food production—while advancing public health and worker safety. Environmentally sustainable fishing operations protect habitat, ensure wild sustainable fish stocks, support traditional and local fishing economies—while advancing public health and worker safety. The promotion of climate-friendly diets and sustainably produced foods can reduce the environmental impact of our food system and incentivize the adoption of sustainable farming, fishing, ranching, and business practices.


  1. Purchase environmentally sustainable food, from suppliers that:
    • community health and universal rights to clean air and water;
    • the reduction or elimination of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers;
    • improved soil health and carbon sequestration;
    • reduced fossil fuel energy inputs and the protection of water resources;
    • biodiversity and ecological resilience;
    • reduced food waste;
    • reduced greenhouse gas emissions; and
    • the reduction or elimination of single-use plastics and other resource-intensive packaging
  2. Reduce carbon and water footprint of food purchases.


  • Grasslands Alliance
  • USDA Transitional Organic


Farm and food chain workers have the right to freedom of association; to organize a union; and to bargain collectively, free from reprisal, for livable wages and safe and healthy working conditions. Food businesses that uphold and implement principles of workers’ rights; cooperative ownership; democratic decision-making; and migrant, racial, and gender justice help to ensure that food workers can live and work with dignity.


  • Purchase food from suppliers with valued workforces
  • Ensure vendors and suppliers respect workers rights and comply with labor laws through contractual requirements and enforcement


  • Union Contract
    • e.g. Familias Unidas por la Justicia, FLOC, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, United Farm Workers, United Food and Commercial Workers, Service Employees International Union, UNITE HERE.


Animal welfare encompasses all aspects of animals’ wellbeing and high animal welfare welfare is achieved when animals’ physical, mental, and behavioral needs are met throughout their lives. This can be understood through the five domains of animal wellbeing:

  1. nutrition;
  2. physical environment;
  3. health;
  4. behavioral interaction; and
  5. mental/affective state.

Farms and ranches with high animal welfare practices ensure responsible care and stewardship of farmed animals that also create positive impacts for the health of surrounding communities and ecosystems.


  • Purchase high animal welfare products
  • Reduce total animal weight of animal products sourced to reduce number of animal lives per meal served



Supporting communities in shaping their food environment with culturally relevant, nourishing foods improves health and wellbeing, ensures food sovereignty, and builds resilience to withstand and recover from economic and environmental disruptions.


Institutional procurement and related strategies focused on community health and nutrition promote healthy and resilient communities. Institutions act in partnership with their communities to improve health as they promote and expand access to nutritious food relevant to the people they serve. Institutions prioritize procuring whole or minimally processed foods, including vegetables, fruit, and whole grains; and serving plant-forward foods, which honor communities’ food traditions and protect against food-related chronic disease.

Note: Different institution types may have differing abilities to directly impact community health and institutions serve different populations that may have varying health and nutritional needs.


Changing the food system means creating a system based on values. It means understanding relationships between distributors, vendors, and their suppliers and increasing transparency along the entire supply chain.
Every year, public institutions across the United States – from school districts to city governments – spend billions of dollars on food purchases. They have the opportunity to lead the movement for food system change and express their community’s values while influencing supply chains.


The Standards are a scoring methodology and rating system by which the Center for Good Food Purchasing analyzes how institutional food purchasing aligns with values of the Good Food Purchasing Program. The Standards provide a framework to guide institutions, policymakers, and community-based organizations and grassroots coalitions in using public food dollars to support community values and reimagine a food system based on racial equity, transparency, and accountability. Through the Program, the Center works with institutions to establish supply chain transparency from farm to fork, evaluate how current purchasing practices align with the Good Food Purchasing Standards, assist with goal setting, measure progress, and 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 core components of adoption are:


Meet at least the baseline standard in each of the five value categories, as outlined in the Good Food Purchasing Standards.


Incorporate the Good Food Purchasing Standards and reporting requirements into new RFPs and contracts.


Participate in the Center’s Program to verify compliance and celebrate success.


Establish supply chain transparency to the farm of origin that enables the commitment to be verified and tracked over time.


Once an institution adopts the Good Food Purchasing Policy, it works with the Center for Good Food Purchasing and local lead partner organization to implement the Good Food Purchasing Program. Implementation involves four key steps:
Assess Baseline
Set Goals
Track Progress
Celebrate Success
The Center provides resources for participating organizations at every step of the process from local coalition building to policy adoption and implementation. More details on materials available for local efforts are on our Resources page.


The Center for Good Food Purchasing provides annual independent analysis of an institution’s purchasing data and provides a verification seal with individualized, branded materials to institutions that meet baseline requirements across the five value categories.
Qualifying criteria, including third party certifications, referenced in the Good Food Purchasing Standards are carefully considered by a panel of issue area experts and reviewers. To be included, certifications are ranked according to rigor, auditing process, and alignment with the Program’s vision for change.
The Good Food Purchasing Standards undergo a regular review and update process that includes extensive stakeholder outreach and input.

For a copy of the Standards, email


Key Changes:

  • Updates to performance recognition, including a switch to Good Food Leader and the addition of tiers of performance (Gold, Silver, Bronze). These changes are intended to reflect that many institutions are taking leadership in the Program and within their institutions, even before they are able to achieve the highest level of program performance. The levels of performance still require an equal weight to each of the five program values and progression over time, critical features of the Good Food Purchasing Program.
  • New Equity, Accountability and Transparency requirements that encourage practices that are fundamental to a successful values-based purchasing initiative: community engagement, supplier diversification, a policy commitment, and transparency.
  • Addition of targets in Local and Community-Based Economies for sourcing from People of Color and suppliers who have experienced negative systemic social and/or economic impacts.
  • New strategies that reflect how institutions are actually implementing the values in practice, including hybrid options for meeting targets in Environmental Sustainability and Animal Welfare by both increasing purchases of qualifying items and reducing carbon/water footprint or animal product purchases.
  • Strengthened guidance around Valued Workforce standards with an aim to deepen the impact of implementation on outcomes for workers (e.g. incorporation of contractual commitments for vendors around labor law compliance and sanctions for non-compliance).
  • Expanded Community Health & Nutrition requirements, including the addition of a target for increasing whole and minimally processed food purchases over time.


Analysis is based off of the tiered, points-based system described in the Good Food Purchasing Standards. Key features of the scoring system include:


Each of the five value categories has a baseline standard. To become a Good Food Provider, an institution must meet at least the baseline (equal to one point) in each of the five values.


Standards are based off of third party certifications that have been identified as meaningful and ranked by national experts in each category.


More points are awarded for achievement at higher levels in each category, allowing institutions to raise their score by emphasizing their high priority categories.


Points earned in each category are added together to determine overall number of points earned. A star rating is awarded.


Scoring relies on access to clean, complete purchasing records for an institution. Connect with the Center for Good Food Purchasing to learn more about reporting requirements.
The Center provides independent verification, and offers templates, processes, databases, and recognition and branding materials that participating institutions can tap into to support their policy commitment.