Catalyst Winter 2017
Ideas in Action

Creating a Gold Standard for Good Food

Kids eating a healthy school lunch

Photo: USDA

If we are to fix this country’s broken system of producing and consuming food, we must deal with its complex and interconnected problems holistically. In other words, better nutrition cannot be achieved without also considering the sustainability of farming practices; conditions for farm workers cannot be improved with also considering the way food is distributed and sold.

One promising innovation to help meet these challenges is the Good Food Purchasing Program, which was cocreated under the auspices of the Los Angeles Food Policy Council by Alexa Delwiche, whom UCS has recognized for her efforts with the title of 2016 Got Science? champion. The program encourages institutions with large food budgets, such as school districts, to align their spending with five core values: nutrition, sustainability, a valued workforce, local economies, and animal welfare.

“It’s designed to do for food what LEED did for energy efficiency in buildings,” says Delwiche, referring to the well-known certification system for buildings developed by the US Green Building Council.

The Los Angeles Unified School District is the largest purchaser of food in the city and was the first to adopt the Good Food Purchasing Program. In the first year after implementation, the district redirected $12 million in produce purchases to local growers, its suppliers created more than 150 new well-paying jobs, drivers’ minimum wage increased, and students participated in “meatless Mondays.” The district has also worked to improve the nutritional quality of the 650,000 daily meals it serves its students, the vast majority of whom qualify for free or reduced-price lunches.

Success Is Contagious

Former School Board Commissioner Sandra Fewer signed the San Francisco Unified School District’s commitment to the Good Food Purchasing Policy in a ceremony last fall.
Photo: Rosalyn Lee

The Good Food Purchasing Program has since been adopted by the school districts of Oakland and San Francisco, which, together with Los Angeles, represent $200 million in food purchasing power. Delwiche and her team are now working with public institutions in Austin, Chicago, Cincinnati, Madison, Minneapolis/St. Paul, and New York City to spread the program.

“Each model for implementation is different, but what is so inspiring is that they all share the same vision and road map,” she says—toward a better, more just, and more sustainable food system. UCS applauds Alexa Delwiche and our four other 2016 Got Science? champions, who practice or defend science in the service of a healthier and safer world.