Local, Healthy Food Procurement Policies
Local healthy food procurement policies offer multiple benefits to the producer, consumer, and local government. By mandating purchase, provision and distribution requirements, these policies can help drive demand for and improve the availability of local, healthy foods in a community. These policies can direct public agencies to purchase a certain percentage of food from local farms, thereby strengthening markets for local producers. These policies can help change eating behaviors by introducing consumers (of all ages and in many different public settings, such as schools, childcare and senior centers, after school programs, and parks and recreation facilities) to foods that meet specific nutrition standards, and encouraging them to use such standards when making their own food purchases.1 These policies can provide opportunities to educate consumers about the geographic origin and healthfulness of food, thereby increasing awareness about the local food system. And, these policies can help local governments achieve multiple community goals – economic development goals such as the creation of jobs and local income; health goals such as improving access to healthy food; and agriculture goals such as preserving farmland and identifying new markets for farmers.
Thus far communities have had mixed success in meeting local food purchasing targets, but these ordinances are important first steps in starting conversations around building municipal markets for local food systems and healthier food. In the most successful examples, efforts to engage stakeholders and build infrastructure and capacity, in some cases through pilot projects rather than ordinance adoption, have been key. Local food policy councils have been vital partners in the adoption and implementation of food procurement policies, so planners should reach out to these groups and other stakeholders to grow the coalitions pushing for these changes. Other considerations for planners include focusing on additional networking, education, and marketing efforts to support effective local healthy food procurement. A systems approach to this policy tool will be vital in helping local governments better support local agricultural viability and access to healthy, fresh foods.