Environmental Quality / 2013
The Good Food Purchasing Program: Building a Local and Sustainable Food Economy for LA
The Good Food Purchasing Pledge (GFPP) harnesses the purchasing power of major institutions to encourage environmentally sustainable food production, healthy eating habits, respect for workers’ rights, humane treatment of animals and support for the local business economy by providing new opportunities for small and mid-sized farmers and job creation along the supply chain. By building the market for Good Food, GFPP will also provide low-income residents in urban communities access to affordable, healthy, fair and sustainable food options.
The GFPP initiative is the most comprehensive and metric-based food purchasing policy of its kind in the nation and was developed by the LA Food Policy Council (LAFPC). It is a model that can be easily adopted by other cities. Think LEED, but for Good Food. Just as LEED has provided a critical catalyst to the green building movement, we believe our pledge will be a catalyst for the sustainable food movement in Los Angeles and beyond. The successful implementation of LAFPC's program could create a ripple effect, inspiring other cities and states to take action. Funding from LA2050 would allow us to expand the number of institutions participating in the program, thus increasing the positive impact on our local environment, economy and community.
It is well known that the way our food is produced has significant environmental and health impacts. Factory farming has led to a serious public health threat due to water pollution and the routine use of antibiotics for livestock, which contributes to antibiotic resistant bacteria that can cause human infection; food borne illness is a growing problem worldwide. Agriculture is a top contributor of greenhouse gas emissions and air and water pollution, and it consumes over 80 percent of our state’s water. Widespread pesticide use pollutes our air and water and exposes farm workers and neighboring communities; farm workers experience twice the national average of cancer rates.
LA’s regional foodshed, which spans the 200 mile, ten-county region, is the largest producer of fruits, vegetables and nuts in the nation. Yet most of our produce is exported outside the region, often at an economic loss to small and mid-sized farmers. Farmers unable to compete in the global market sell off their land to developers, draining the local economy and also contributing to sprawl. Despite the abundance that surrounds us, many urban residents lack access to fresh and healthy food and consequently suffer from the paradox of hunger and obesity, which disproportionately impacts low-income communities of color.
With 10 million residents (26% of CA's population), LA County accounts for a significant portion of the food purchased in the state. Due to the size of the LA market, leveraging the purchasing power of large institutions to serve healthy, local and sustainable food can offer enormous benefit to our region’s producers, health of consumers and workers, and our natural resources.
Large institutions (hospitals, schools, universities) in Los Angeles serve millions of meals every day. These meals should be healthy and prepared with sustainably sourced ingredients. To help reach this goal, the GFPP recognizes and rewards major meal providers that follow healthy, sustainable procurement practices. Through a point system, the program promotes increasing levels of achievement in five crucial categories: (1) local economies, (2) environmental sustainability, (3) valued workforce, (4) animal welfare, and (5) nutrition. To encourage participation, our program provides technical assistance in sourcing, monitoring progress, and measuring and recognizing success. With a clear standard to aspire to, institutions will demand better ingredients from producers and provide better meals to consumers.
Recent adoption of GFPP by the City of LA and LA Unified School District (LAUSD) marks a major accomplishment in the strengthening of a sustainable regional food system. Through this program, we are working to increase the consumption of Good Food and improve the quality of 750,000 meals served daily by LAUSD and City of LA nutrition programs and facilities. This will also create an economic shift to increase affordability and availability of Good Food, with resulting benefit to the water, air, and public health of all.
Successful implementation and scalability of GFPP requires infrastructure to enable institutions to comply with GFPP’s standards. Funding from LA2050 would help LAFPC recruit more institutions to adopt the Good Food Purchasing Pledge and support implementation efforts, including technical assistance and an annual public recognition event for Good Food Purchasers and Good Food Vendor Showcase at City Hall on national Food Day to celebrate purchasers’ commitment and progress, while facilitating relationships between growers, distributors, vendors and GFPP institutions.
What are some of your organization’s most important achievements to date?
In just two years since it was established, LAFPC has been recognized as one of the largest and most advanced food policy councils in the state, with the broadest reach of any such council in the country. LAFPC is the subject of two national evaluations and was profiled as a model in a report by the Applied Research Center entitled, Good Food+Good Jobs For All: Challenges and Opportunities to Advance Racial and Economic Equity in the Food System.
Key LAFPC achievements include:
• Good Food Purchasing Pledge. LAFPC developed and successfully advanced the most comprehensive Good Food Procurement policy in the nation. The policy was adopted by the City of LA through a Mayoral executive directive and a LA City Council motion on 10/24/2012, and by the LAUSD, the second largest food purchaser in California, on 11/13/2012. GFPP is the first municipal food procurement policy in the country to include labor standards.
• Community Market Conversion (CMC) Collaborative. LAFPC created the CMC Collaborative to continue the work of the Community Redevelopment Agency-initiated CMC program and received funding for at least three additional store conversions, in partnership with a CDFI. LAFPC has pioneered the use of business and leadership development trainings for neighborhood markets interested in offering healthier fare. The first event, “From Corner Store to Community Grocer: Everything You Need To Know To Be a Healthy Food Retailer,” held in July 2012, offered over a dozen workshops and provided storeowners and community groups with technical, marketing and produce management skills to expand healthy food retail. Over 150 people participated, including 60 storeowners from across LA County. The second training, held on March 19, 2013, focused on Korean American store owners.
• National Food Day, October 24, 2012. LAFPC organized an information fair in City Hall Rotunda of its seven Working Groups’ priorities and achievements with over 100 guests; hosted a speakers’ program with an announcement and signing by Mayor Villaraigosa of the Good Food Purchasing Policy executive directive, and comments from Council Members Paul Koretz and Jan Perry, and Dr. Jonathan Fielding, Director of LA County Department of Public Health; received a Food Day resolution from Council Member Eric Garcetti; followed by the unanimous adoption of the Good Food Procurement motion by City Council.
• Good Food Day LA – A Day of Service, March 31, 2012. In partnership with the Mayor’s office, LAFPC conducted a citywide awareness and volunteer service event, coordinating 1,000 volunteers and over 100 organizations. The event drew over 3,000 participants.
• Infrastructure & Capacity Development. LAFPC organized a network of nearly 700 stakeholders from 325 organizations into a thriving and cohesive collaborative of seven high functioning Working Groups and 40-member leadership body to guide the Good Food vision and framework.
Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.
LAFPC is uniquely positioned to successfully advance and implement GFPP, with its extended network of 300 organizations from across the food system. GFPP was developed with input from nearly 100 individuals - farmers, distributors, and food purchasers, and labor, environmental, public health and animal welfare experts. A Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) will help guide implementation of the initiative, working closely with the City of LA, LAUSD, and LA County Department of Public Health. TAC members also include individuals from California Food Policy Advocates, Food Chain Workers Alliance, and industry experts in sustainable food systems. We will regularly update our network on implementation and engage them in promotion efforts.
Please explain how you will evaluate your project. How will you measure success?
The University of Wisconsin-Madison has assisted us in the development of an evaluation plan and assessment tools to measure progress with our process and the initiative’s short and long term impacts, which we have begun to implement.
In Year One of the program, purchasers will submit a baseline assessment of the total annual dollar amount of food purchases by food category. Purchasers are then asked to submit a quarterly inventory of purchasing data with information on: 1) food item; 2) volume; 3) cost; 4) source (farm level). From this baseline assessment, LAFPC will work with the departments to establish a five-year GFPP implementation plan with annual benchmarks, starting with the goal of allocating 15 percent of their annual food purchases towards our five value categories within one year and gradually increasing that amount over time. We will measure and report on GFPP participants’ progress to City Council annually.
Another major goal of our program is to develop internal leadership within purchasing institutions and to work in collaboration with the institutions to establish a value chain that works for purchasers, consumers and suppliers. LAFPC staff will work closely with our partner institutions to assess their experience in order to improve the efficacy of GFPP implementation. In addition to individual technical assistance, we will host semi-annual technical assistance meetings with all purchasers and their vendors. We will survey participants at each meeting to assess increased understanding of the Good Food values and their importance, experience with implementation, and changes in value chain relationships as a result of the program.
Short term success will be measured by:
- Percentage increase in dollar amount and volume of food purchases identified as local, sustainable, fair, humane, and healthy
- Number of meals served each day impacted by GFPP
- Number of institutions that have adopted GFPP
- Number of institutions that have met their annual benchmarks
- Number of new Good Food suppliers that have entered institutional supply chains as a result of the program.
- Increased transparency in the supply chain
- Statewide and national expansion of GFPP
In addition to evaluating short term outcomes for GFPP, LAFPC will measure the GFPP’s contributions to the following long-term outcomes:
1. Improvements in regional environment in terms of air quality, land use and water quality
2. Improvements in farmer livelihoods
3. Improvements in worker equity
4. Improvements in health outcomes of underserved communities in LA County
5. Improvements in accessibility of Good Food in LA County
Through our research, we will work with a university partner to conduct a case study evaluation of one purchaser’s supply chain impacts on these value categories.
How will your project benefit Los Angeles?
Reduce Food System Environmental Impacts: Through their commitment to purchase at least 15% of annual food purchases from sustainable and local sources, LA institutions will contribute to our region’s environmental sustainability targets by reducing chemical inputs (such as pesticides and fertilizer) and food miles. Institutions are also encouraged to reduce meat consumption—a key strategy for improving public health and sustainability—as livestock farming is one of the most significant sources of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.
Influence Food Production Decisions: Increased demand for fairly and sustainably produced food from large institutional purchasers will encourage LA area farmers to shift towards more environmentally and socially sustainable growing practices. With more institutions adopting GFPP, we will provide market opportunities for farms that decrease or eliminate chemical inputs; avoid the use of hormones and antibiotics; conserve land, soil, and water; protect and enhance biodiversity; and reduce on-farm energy consumption and GHG emissions.
Strengthen the LA Regional Food Infrastructure: We will build market relationships between GFPP purchasers and GFPP producers by working with partners to establish a LA Regional Food Hub. A food hub, supported by regular institutional demand, will provide necessary infrastructure to scale up the supply of local Good Food and make wholesome Good Food options affordable in small neighborhood markets in underserved LA neighborhoods.
Climate Change Adaptability: Locally produced and sustainably harvested produce and fish ensure food security by avoiding disruptions in the supply chain or lapses in quality control. Moreover, a region that can generate its own food is less susceptible to fluctuations in the national and global food supply.
It is also important for us to ensure that everyone living in the LA region has access to Good Food. LAUSD is a vital part of this goal. As the second largest school district in the country, they provide lunch to 650,000 students daily, 80% of whom receive free or reduced meals. Additionally, City government facilities reach at least 100,000 residents daily, through nutrition programs, employee cafeterias, and concessionaires. We will also work with universities and hospitals to expand GFPP. GFPP will ensure increased access to fresh, high quality local food to those who need it most.
Create Local Jobs: Rebuilding our regional food system can create good, local jobs throughout the food chain—in food production, processing, distribution, food service, and waste. A localized food system can greatly benefit the LA economy because small, local farms, suppliers, and their employees are more likely to spend income locally, re-circulating 2 to 4 times the capital they spend. For example, through LAUSD’s GFPP commitment, local farmers, processors, warehouses, distributors and workers could receive at least $13 million annually.
What would success look like in the year 2050 regarding your indicator?
By 2050, the Good Food Purchasing Pledge will make valuable contributions to a wide range of important food systems issues, bringing California closer to a healthy, just and sustainable food system for all, as measured by the following outcomes:
1. Improvements in environmental stewardship practices, as measured by reductions in water contamination by pesticides; decline in nitrogen pollution from farming systems; decline in greenhouse gas emissions related to agricultural production methods, distance, and meat consumption; preservation of farmland; improvements in soil quality and percentage decline in agricultural related water use.
2. Improvements in livestock living conditions measured by decline in number of confined animal feeding operations; decrease in animal feed production, including alfalfa, corn, soy etc.; decrease in meat consumption.
3. Improvements in farmer livelihoods as measured by increased crop diversity as measured by top 10 crops per county in production; acreage of small and mid-scale family farms (less than 500 acres) holding stable; increase in new generation, women, minority, disabled, or veteran farmers; and average net farm income of small and mid-scale family farms matches or exceeds median national household income.
4. Improvements in worker equity as measured by number of food workers that receive wages sufficient to support a household for full-time work; decline in percentage of these food workers who use food stamps; increased rates of union density rates for food chain workers.
5. Improvements in health outcomes of underserved communities in LA County, as measured by declines in rates of diet related disease prevalence; childhood and adult overweight and obesity; decreased health care costs; decreased use of antibiotics in livestock; and reductions in food safety outbreaks;
6. Improvements in accessibility of Good Food in LA County as measured by number of corner markets sourcing Good Food because of improvements made in distribution infrastructure catalyzed by GFPP institution participation.
By 2050, the Good Food Purchasing Pledge will be replicated throughout the state and country and will be the national institutional food procurement standard. GFPP will transform the way food is produced, purchased, and consumed in Los Angeles, California, and the U.S. The headline will read - A Taste of Change: LA Leads a Groundbreaking Initiative, which Transforms Millions of Meals, Minds, Bodies and Fields