Food Chain Workers Alliance (FCWA) and HEAL Food Alliance recently released the report Procuring Food Justice: Grassroots Solutions for Reclaiming Our Public Supply Chains. The authors challenge corporate control of institutional procurement markets and advocate for a value-based food purchasing strategy.

FCWA and HEAL are working to implement this strategy through the Good Food Purchasing Program (GFPP). The GFPP transforms the way public institutions purchase food by creating a transparent, equitable, values-based food system. The Center for Good Food Purchasing provides a comprehensive set of tools and technical support to help institutions meet their program goals.

“Without the GFPP, most of the institutions we are talking about would never have even thought about using value-based procurement,” Jose Oliva, Campaigns Director at HEAL Food Alliance tells Food Tank.

According to the report, values-based procurement programs like the GFPP encourage institutions to divest from suppliers that uphold a model of food production that is structurally racist, exploitative, and unsustainable. The campaign seeks to leverage values-based procurement that invests in suppliers advancing racial equity, workers’ rights, climate justice, and transparency.

Oliva, one of the report’s researchers and producers, says the ten-year-long project aimed to measure the GFPP’s impact.

“We had no real way of knowing what we were accomplishing,” says Oliva. “We knew we were changing the food system in those large institutions, but we didn’t know exactly how.”

Throughout 2022 and the spring of 2023, authors conducted three case studies with producers and distributors in different regions of the United States. The case studies identified and explored a number of barriers to small-scale, community-of-color-owned producer and distributor access to procurement markets.

The Agri-Cultura Cooperative Network (ACN) is one of the report’s case studies. The farmer-owned cooperative aggregates produce from farmers in New Mexico in order to serve low-income communities in the unincorporated South Valley of Albuquerque.

Helga Garcia-Garza, the Executive Director of ACN, shares how the cooperative has been working with school lunch programs to encourage values-based procurement practices.

“If we were really going to engage in building a procurement policy piece that we could all work with, they had to understand the seasonal growing of New Mexico,” Garcia-Garza tells Food Tank. “They had to understand what we could provide, because they were still locked into decades and decades of the global food system where they could get anything they wanted anytime of year for the cheapest value, in nutrition and price.”

Read the full article about grassroots food system movements by Liza Greene at Food Tank.