The Good Food Purchasing Pledge case study evaluation and year-one progress update, produced by the Community and Regional Food Systems Project team at University of Wisconsin-Madison, is now available. Read the blog post (reposted below from their website) and see the full report here.


June 19, 2014 by Martin Bailkey

Among my most rewarding experiences across the first three years of the CRFS project has been the collaborative work with our community partners in Los Angeles. As the LA “city coordinator” I was initially daunted by both LA’s size (which food organizations, in a region with many millions of eaters, might we work with?) and the 2,000 miles between Madison and LA, meaning that whatever project time spent in Southern California was limited and needed to be as effective as possible. As it turned out, I needn’t have worried.

I’ll write about our work with two Los Angeles partners, Community Services Unlimited, Inc. and University of California Cooperative Extension, Los Angeles County in subsequent postings. This first post will review our 2013 Community Engagement Project with the Los Angeles Food Policy Council (LAFPC), through which we developed an evaluation approach to its Good Food Purchasing Pledge (GFPP). This CEP was advantageous for my CRFS project colleagues, Lindsey Day Farnsworth and Samuel Pratsch, and I for several reasons. First, it fed right into Lindsey’s keen academic interest in food policy councils as agents for food system change. Secondly, it attracted Samuel’s professional interest in developing formal evaluation practices for food system initiatives. For me, as CRFS project Co-Manager, developing a GFPP evaluation approach offered the chance to engage in what Samuel, Lindsey and I saw as a truly multi-faceted and innovative program – exposing food system innovation is, after all, one of the key CRFS project goals.

The Pledge

The GFPP was adopted through an Executive Directive by LA’s then-Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in October, 2012, and intended to strongly encourage the procurement of local- and regionally-grown food by city agencies and other institutional purchasers. The policy was developed by a LAFPC Working Group aware that the increased procurement of healthy food was a key recommendation in the broader “Good Food for All Agenda” adopted by the city in 2010. The Working Group, whose members included representatives from the worlds of public health, farm-to-school, animal welfare and farmworker advocacy, assumed a strong values-based approach in creating an incentive-based purchasing program, with credit awarded for factors including, but not limited to, buying locally-grown food. As a result, a tiered, points-based system now rewards GFPP participants’ commitment to each of five values: (1) supporting a strong local food economy; (2) environmental sustainability; (3) food having high nutritional quality; (4) a valued food industry workforce; and (5) the humane treatment of animals.

The program had a successful first year, with participation by the city’s Department of Water & Power, the Department of Aging, the Los Angeles Convention Center, and Guckenheimer (the food service operator for Google LA and Roll Global). In addition, the Los Angeles Unified School District, the city’s largest single food purchaser, serving 650,000 meals per school day, furthered its national Farm-to-School leadership through the GFPP. LAUSD increased its locally-sourced dairy purchasing to 95 percent of all dairy products served, and, with its distributor, Gold Star, set a target of 100 percent California-grown wheat flour for all buns served by LAUSD beginning in 2014. To mark the end of the Community Engagement Project, a one-year GFPP assessment has been jointly authored by the LAFPC and the CRFS project.


From the start of our Community Engagement Project collaboration, Samuel, Lindsey and I realized that the LAFPC’s activities, under the direction of its founding Chair, Paula Daniels, benefitted greatly from a dedicated and highly-capable staff, including (among others) Alexa Delwiche, Clare Fox and Colleen McKinney. After some preliminary discussions, however, we learned that LAFPC staff were interested in building their evaluation capacity in order to document and assess the effectiveness of the programs they had initiated – particularly the GFPP that was newly underway.

After some initial groundwork, Samuel led several meetings over three days in January 2013 at the LAFPC’s offices in the iconic tower of LA’s City Hall. Together with LAFPC staff and several members of the GFPP Working Group, Samuel, Lindsey and I collectively created a logic model to serve as a guide for measuring the GFPP’s impact on the Los Angeles regional food system. A logic model, a tool used extensively in program evaluation and development, is a graphic representation of the relationships among the inputs brought to a program, the operating assumptions behind program implementation, expected program outputs, and desired outcomes over time. These elements form a “theory of change” to articulate how the program will produce particular long-term outcomes, such as increases in low-input agricultural practices and decreases in regional food insecurity. The GFPP logic model was also instrumental in identifying which indicators to track and will determine what data LAFPC staff will collect and follow over time to gauge program success. This tracking will reveal changes in knowledge (such as awareness of the GFPP among the region’s food vendors and suppliers) and changes in behavior (increased demand among institutional buyers and consumers for locally and sustainably produced food that also reflects improved conditions for food system workers).

In the end, this Community Engagement Project reflected many of the goals to which all of our CEPs aspire – it was applied action research that directed CRFS project resources to the need of a community partner, involved co-learning with that partner, had a clear end goal, and examined a noteworthy example of food system innovation.

Many thanks from Lindsey, Samuel and I to Paula, Alexa, Clare, Colleen and the entire LAFPC.