Written by Camille de la Vega, Operations and Communications Coordinator
On Earth Day, the LA Food Policy Council convened a diverse group of food system stakeholders to the California Endowment to discuss good food procurement and the power of collective impact to transform our food system. By engaging in reflection on one of its most successful initiatives, LAFPC hoped to inspire working groups and new members to think collaboratively across the borders of their work to create innovative policies and partnerships in support of a more sustainable, healthy food system.
Clare Fox, Director of Policy and Innovation, opened the meeting by speaking to the great opportunity values-based policies like the Good Food Purchasing Policy (GFPP) provide, stating, “We have tremendous power when we vote with our dollar, and when it comes to food, we vote with our fork. Now imagine that fork is worth millions of dollars.”
The Good Food Purchasing Policy was created by a working group of the LA Food Policy Council and is designed to harness the purchasing power of major institutions and empower them to procure high quality, sustainable, fair and humanely sourced foods, while providing healthier meals to school children, seniors and public employees. The policy is nationally-recognized as the most comprehensive, metric-based food purchasing policy in the country and the only one to include strong labor standards. Under the leadership of former Mayor Villaraigosa and Paula Daniels, LAFPC Founder and then-Senior Policy Advisor to the Mayor on Food Policy and Special Projects in Water, the City of Los Angeles adopted the Good Food Purchasing Program in 2012 with a Mayoral Executive Directive and unanimous approval from City Council.
LAUSD Board Member and Good Food Hero Steve Zimmer was closely involved in LAUSD’s adoption of GFPP in 2012 and he shared what he has learned about the enormous influence and responsibility of the District to support its values through procurement:
“I’ve come to believe that [the Good Food Purchasing Policy] is a high mark of what policy makers can do; how much our kids matter, how what they eat matters; how food chain workers matter. If every school district in California adopted this policy, the food industry would have to respond.”
Since adoption, the LA Times estimates LAUSD has redirected about $10 million into the local economy and produced 150 well-paying jobs. He closed with an inspiring call for vigilance—not just with industry, but with ourselves; “We must tap into the wisdom of the community and our collective family. We must embody the change and recognize food is love, food is culture, food is community.”
LA Food Policy Council Managing Director Alexa Delwiche connected her own powerful experience working with the United Farm Workers to the need to create policy solutions that tackle systemic issues. “Where are we going wrong?” she asked, “Famers, workers, food deserts, food swamps, the environment, and animals all suffering under the same system set up for profit.” As a member of the working group that created the Good Food Purchasing Policy, she worked alongside fellow advocates and experts from diverse sectors to advance their shared vision of increasing transparency in the supply chain from farm to fork. Delwiche reminded us that while GFPP creates opportunities, implementation also reveals new challenges, and encouraged the audience to continue expressing the importance of values-based purchasing by showing up to key meetings.
Following the presentation, LA Food Policy Council Leadership Board Members Bob Gottlieb (Urban and Environmental Policy Institute at Occidental College), Mary Lee (PolicyLink), Joann Lo (Food Chain Workers Alliance), and Jill Overdorf (Coosemans LA Shipping) joined Alexa onstage to offer their reflections on the policy development and adoption process. Gottlieb, who moderated the panel, set the tone with a brief history of the LA Food Policy Council and how procurement was identified as a key priority. Lo explained that the foundation of LAFPC and the definition of Good Food (local, fair, sustainable and affordable) provided the ideal platform for collaboration, as the basic principles gave clear direction and structure for the working group. Delwiche elaborated that the process took time and that relationships and trust had to be established and, as Overdorf noted, “we all left personal agendas behind and that was unique.”
In exploring the question of whether GFPP is a model for broader social justice, Lee explained that social justice work is incredibly long term and yields incremental changes. Yet, when major institutions change their practices and are held accountable, it affects people at all levels. Principles of equity and social justice should be built into every effort to improve our food system, whether its procurement work or another Good Food initiative. “What we do and how we do it matters. We should be looking at all the institutions in our community to advance the triple bottom line with attention to equity and the environment,” she explained.
The event closed with a call to action for the audience to engage in these conversations and to show up at every step in the policy implementation process, whether it be a public hearing or demonstration. Audience members left with a greater understanding of how they could apply a collective impact strategy to their own projects, campaigns and initiatives in order to create lasting and transformative changes across the food system.