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What is Equitable Good Food Procurement?

EQUITABLE GOOD FOOD PROCUREMENT is the purchasing of good food from locally- or regionally-owned, and environmentally- and economically-sustainable farms, ranches, fisheries and food businesses that prioritize the needs of low-income communities of color and treat their workers with dignity.

Centering Justice

Achieving a just, equitable and sustainable food system – a “good food” system – in America requires attention to the actors and decisions affecting food procurement.  This includes the supply chains and mechanisms connecting those involved in the production of sustainable and healthy food to those who need access to affordable, healthy food.  It encompasses a vast and complex array of post-harvest activities, such as food processing, packaging, delivery, and storage, as well as consumer access, consumption and waste.  It also touches on the federal, Tribal, state and local policies that influence these activities, and the cultural values that shape them.
Health equity and racial justice must be addressed in efforts to change good food procurement systems.  Systemic inequities related to race, gender, age, income, and immigration status are pervasive in the practices, policies and values linked with food procurement.  Low-income people, communities of color and other historically marginalized groups experience barriers to access affordable healthy food, facing disproportionate rates of food insecurity and chronic disease as a result.  As food chain workers, these groups experience lower wages and more dangerous work conditions in an industry known for its low wages.   Meanwhile, farms, fisheries and food businesses owned by historically marginalized people have long struggled to gain access to the opportunities and markets that will allow their good food to be consumed and their businesses to thrive.

From the depth of need and despair, people can work together, can organize themselves to solve their own problems and fill their own needs with dignity and strength

Building Partnerships

Large institutions – also referred to as “anchor” institutions – spend billions of public and private dollars annually and play a unique and influential role in advancing equitable good food procurement in America. Anchor institutions can facilitate the procurement of food in ways that support the physical or economic health of historically marginalized communities. Together, anchor institutions may carry sufficient procurement power to shift markets to:
With an explicit focus on equity and justice, shifts related to good food procurement hold significant promise for the businesses, farmers, and communities that have been sidelined by longstanding practices across sectors influencing food systems across the nation.

Scaling Transformation

Despite advances in the field of equitable good food procurement, further resources and coordination are needed to inspire transformation at scale.  Thanks to the strategic efforts of a growing body of actors in the field in recent years, there have been significant strides in equitable good food procurement activities among anchor institutions.  Community lead coalitions are mobilizing and hyper-local infrastructure is emerging.  Several major cities have recently made substantial commitments to good food procurement.  Tribal nations now have access to a set of model food codes that more specifically address equity and sustainability concerns.  The number of health care institutions and school districts engaged in values-based procurement practices is growing.
However, barriers to healthy food access still plague many cities, rural areas and Tribal communities as farmers, ranchers, fishers and business owners in these places struggle to gain opportunities and access to markets.  Sustainable and ongoing resources are needed not only to support existing and emerging work in this area, but also to extend the reach of the work, spur innovation in the field, enhance coordination, and catalyze the infusion of resources from other sources (e.g., federal, private, philanthropic, etc.)