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Prioritize local suppliers and vendors

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Source: Local Futures

Institutions – governments, hospitals, schools, universities, etc. – spend enormous amounts of money each year on procuring goods like food and energy. Unfortunately, much of that spending goes to large-scale profit-driven corporate entities with no real connection to the local economy. The public procurement movement aims to redirect this massive purchasing power towards more local, resilient, fair and ecological production. Public procurement – also called “green purchasing” or “progressive procurement,” among other names – is a powerful and effective strategy for quickly and durably shifting food and other systems towards the small and local, as well as driving other positive environmental and social changes. It is also a way to fight back against abusive corporate practices and power.

Take action

  • Change the food procurement policies of institutions in your community with example policies from the Good Food Purchasing Program (US), and PolicyLink’s Local Food Procurement – Equitable Development Toolkit (US).
  • Check out the Making Spend Matter Toolkit from URBACT, a European network of cities practicing progressive procurement. Also, see how procurement is central to the “Preston Model,” in the report, How We Built Community Wealth in Preston.
  • For farmers wanting to connect with procurement programs, see ATTRA Sustainable Agriculture’s Farm to Institution resources.
  • In the US, if your state does not already have a Double Up Food Bucks program that matches food stamp assistance dollars spent on fresh, locally grown food, get in touch with the Fair Food Network to learn how to bring this innovative program that boosts local farming and food security to your community.
  • If you are an employee, administrator, board member or volunteer for an institution, you can push for changes to procurement policies. Offices, schools, universities, and hospitals have all created successful programs.
  • If you are part of a community group, consider creating a campaign that focuses on pressuring particular institutions to procure food, energy, and goods from local, ethical, and sustainable sources.

Get inspired

  • The UK city of Preston has become a model for enlightened procurement policies. Read about it in this article from the European Network of Corporate Observatories (ENCO)
  • Another UK city, Manchester, analyzed its spending and then reallocated it whenever possible to towards smaller businesses in the local community. For a detailed look at Manchester’s procurement policies and their impact, check out this case study from the Urban Sustainability Exchange.
  • The Odisha Millet Mission is a public procurement program instituted by the state government of Odisha, India, in collaboration with a diverse network of stakeholders in 2017. It aims to revive and promote agroecological cultivation of highly nutritious, climate-resilient millets by incorporating them into public procurement schemes like the public distribution system (PDS). As Bindu Mohanty writes in Odisha Millet Mission: The Successes and the Challenges, the program is currently sourcing from 51,045 farmers, and by 2020 “finger millet, locally known as mandia was distributed to 1.6 million households via the PDS.”
  • Cook County Good Food Purchasing Program, in the Chicago region of the US, adopted the Good Food Purchasing Program as its policy in 2018, becoming the third and largest municipality in the US to do so. This aligned its food procurement policies with the core values of sustainable, equitable food systems: local sourcing, nutrition, environmental sustainability, workers’ rights, and animal welfare.
  • The Los Angeles Food Policy Council’s Good Food Purchasing Policy supports local farms, workers’ rights, and kids’ nutrition, as well as the broader local economy.
  • In the US city of Boston, the city council passed a groundbreaking food justice ordinance that covers everything from food workers’ rights to local and sustainable food procurement to urban gardening.
  • The Pennsylvania Agricultural Surplus Program in the US reimburses local farmers for donating “safe, wholesome food products” to local hunger relief efforts. In 2020-21, some 1.7 million pounds of local food was distributed to over 486,000 households in the state under the program.
  • Double Up Food Bucks is a program in many states in the US that matches the value of food assistance credits spent on healthy, fresh, locally grown food, benefiting those in need of food assistance, local farmers, and the local economy. In 2020, the program provided access to nearly 52 million pounds of fresh local food, serving about 883,000 people and benefiting some 5,000 farmers.
  • In The Next Chapter for Farm to School: Milling Whole Grains in the Cafeteria, Hannah Wallace reports that “Oregon’s legislature has been funding farm-to-school projects since 2007, when it budgeted for a permanent, full-time farm-to-school manager position. In July [2021], the legislature re-upped the Oregon Farm-to-School Grant Program, setting aside $10.2 million in funding for schools to purchase and serve Oregon-grown foods.”
  • In Sweden, public sector purchasing under the Green Public Procurement policy has helped increase organic food consumption by 33% and increase organic farmland area by 16% in ten years. Read more from Urban Food Futures: In Sweden, public sector purchasing helps conversion to organic production.

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