In 2012, the Los Angeles Food Policy Council set out to transform the city’s food purchasing system into a more sustainable model that prioritizes the environment, animal welfare, and the local economy. The council did this by developing the Good Food Purchasing Program (GFPP), a certification-based initiative to create more transparent and equitable food procurement systems. The program quickly took hold. Soon after the City of Los Angeles approved the program for its institutional food purchases, it was also adopted by the LA Unified School District—the largest school district in the nation and the city’s largest food purchaser, serving approximately 650,000 meals a day. Other public institutions around the country followed LA’s lead. Thus far, the San Francisco Unified School District, the Oakland Unified School District, the City of Chicago, and Chicago Public Schools have adopted the GFPP, with school districts and city governments in Austin, Minneapolis, and Washington, DC, in the process of doing so.
The GFPP focuses on five core values—environmental sustainability, local economies, nutrition, valued workforce, and animal welfare—that together introduce a multitude of benefits into a food procurement system. On the animal welfare front, it requires participating public institutions either to use suppliers whose higher-welfare practices are third-party certified or to replace some percentage of animal products with equivalent plant-based protein. There are different GFPP certification levels depending on the total dollars spent on higher-welfare products or percentage of animal products replaced. This is a key component of the GFPP; it’s a flexible program built to ensure success for institutions of varying food procurement needs and capacities.
Because the GFPP impacts hundreds of millions of meals served every year, it has a significant effect on farm animal welfare—which is why AWI is part of a coalition of stakeholders promoting its adoption in Washington, DC. In 2016, both local and national organizations began working with District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) and the DC Food Policy Council to explore the possibility of implementing the GFPP in the District. As the coalition continued to grow, a requirement that DCPS adopt the GFPP was also added to a local bill, the “Healthy Students Amendment Act of 2017.” AWI testified in support of the bill before the DC City Council in November 2017, as did approximately 40 other individuals and organizations. The District is expected to approve the program this year.
Currently in the United States, the vast majority of farm animals are raised in industrialized, unsanitary warehouses where they are packed so densely they can barely move. The GFPP seeks to transition food procurement systems away from this inhumane status quo toward methods of farming where the animals are able to roam, forage, and socialize, which is clearly better for their well-being.
Public institutions purchase a vast volume of animal products, and thus, the choices they make either contribute to farm animal suffering or help to alleviate it and encourage higher-welfare farming. In cities across the country, the GFPP continues to help public institutions create a more equitable process for food procurement that will result in more humane conditions for farm animals.