Collective Impact: Case Study of the Los Angeles Food Policy Council’s Good Food Purchasing Policy

Collective Impact: Case Study of the Los Angeles Food Policy Council’s Good Food Purchasing Policy

April 29, 2015 Roots of Change

By Holly Calhoun, Roots of Change.

On Wednesday 4/22/15 the Los Angeles Food Policy Council (LAFPC) bimonthly Network Meeting featured a case study and panel discussion on their Good Food Purchasing Policy, “From Working Group to Good Food Policy: Collective Impact in Action.” The Good Food Purchasing Policy (GFPP) was born out of a working group of the LAFPC and was adopted by the City of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) in the fall of 2012. Procurement policies have become an increasingly popular tool for changing the food system by leveraging the substantial buying power of institutions – such as schools, hospitals, and government agencies. LAFPC’s GFPP has quickly gained a reputation as the most comprehensive, metrics-based procurement policy in the nation, in large part a result of the coalition-building approach of the working group that developed it. The lessons learned through this process translate across food system issue areas, demonstrating both the challenge and enormous power of policy development through cross-sector collaboration.

Many of us are familiar with the slogan, “Vote with Your Fork,” invoked by local food proponents. “Now imagine if your fork was worth millions of dollars,” Alexa Delwiche, Managing Director of the LAFPC, said last Wednesday to a room filled with over a hundred food system stakeholders, advocates, and community leaders at the Network Meeting. Alexa explained to the crowd that the complex nature of the food system and the inter-related issues of health, poverty, and environmental justice (among others) result in poor outcomes for people and communities, because the system is designed to value profitability above all else. What if a new set of values were embedded in the system?

GFPP stands out among other procurement policies because it set out to influence the entire spectrum of the food chain from farm to fork, including specifications for safe and healthy working conditions for food chain workers, parameters for the humane treatment of animals, and environmental health and sustainability, in addition to guidelines on nutrition and local sourcing. The five key values of GFPP are all weighted equally within the policy’s scoring criteria and are: local economies, environmental sustainability, valued workforce, animal welfare, and nutrition. This comprehensive approach was intentional and integral to the policy’s success, according to last Wednesday’s panel.

LAUSD Board Member Steve Zimmer opened the meeting, speaking about how GFPP is really an education policy. Mr. Zimmer has been extremely influential in the District’s commitment to the GFPP, and he shared his reflections on how critical it is for the District to award its multi-million dollar food contracts to responsible companies who are trying to do the right thing.

Alexa Delwiche talked about the power of the policy to make systemic change, highlighting LAUSD’s announcement to commit to sourcing 100% antibiotic-free chicken and the change in production methods that will result to meet that demand.

Bob Gottlieb of the Urban and Environmental Policy Institute at Occidental College spoke about the early stages of forming a broad-based coalition. Advocates for each set of values didn’t necessarily care about each other’s issues at first – but the LAFPC created a platform for trust-building and education among advocates. Ultimately this broad-based coalition made more progress for each issue area than any could have achieved on its own, underscoring the opportunity that people from any sector have in engaging with their local food policy council — or forming one if it doesn’t yet exist.

One sector involved in the development of the GFPP was the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (LACDPH), which developed the nutrition component of the policy. LACDPH provided content expertise in developing the policy, and provided expert testimony. Through this partnership, the LACDPH contributed its knowledge, lending its credibility to the policy and thereby driving change to achieve public health goals. While LACDPH’s contribution to GFPP focused on the nutrition component, the public health effects of the policy go beyond nutrition through the five value categories. Collaboration with the LAFPC resulted in the creation of a policy that has more robust public health effects than the health department would likely have developed on its own.

The GFPP was an ambitious undertaking that has proven successful in large part because of its ambition. The inclusion of multiple value categories made passage of the policy more politically viable and harnessed the power of a large grassroots network to bring accountability throughout the implementation process. The policy is now a leading model for the nation, with cities across the state and country looking to adopt it in their localities.

Following the panel on Wednesday, the hundred some advocates, leaders, and stakeholders from the audience split off into their respective working groups to engage in the messy work of cross-sector coalition building – each with the inspiration of the profound change that can be achieved by working together.

Interested in learning more about GFPP and how you might bring this comprehensive values-based procurement policy in your locality? Learn more and connect with the LAFPC at http://goodfoodla.org.

Want to learn more about procurement efforts in Southern California? Join the California Food Policy Council Southern California Regional Procurement Working Group Calls on the first Thursday of each month. Email [email protected] for more information.