In a city that celebrates food from farm-to-table, public hospitals are now looking to up their game as well. Earlier this summer, as part of a broader overhaul of food service at San Francisco's two public hospitals — Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Laguna Honda Hospital — the Department of Public Health began a baseline assessment of its food procurement using the Good Food Purchasing Program. The hospitals have now joined both San Francisco and Oakland’s school districts in using this framework, developed by the nonprofit Center for Good Food Purchasing, to evaluate how well their food purchasing supports a healthy, local, sustainable and fair food supply chain.
In addition to the city’s public hospitals, the San Francisco Sherriff’s Department, which serves food to the inmates at the county jails, has also expressed interest in the Good Food Purchasing Program. For both city agencies, it’s a tool that helps meet the goals for healthy and sustainable food that the mayor articulated in 2009.
As more and more institutions adopt the Good Food Purchasing Program, it becomes even more powerful as a policy tool. That’s because, like with the LEED green building rating system, the more food service directors ask their vendors to meet the program’s guidelines, the more demand shifts towards rewarding better business practices. The hospitals, for example, spend a combined $8.6 million annually on food. The SF Unified School District spends $11 million. That spending power gives the public agencies leverage and makes it possible to shift industry demand toward food that is produced with higher standards. The Los Angeles Unified School District, which was the first agency to adopt the Good Food Purchasing Program, provides a clear case study that this model works. Because of the program, the district began purchasing $12 million from local fruit and vegetables growers and shifted its $20 million contract for chicken to a producer that doesn’t routinely use antibiotics. The district’s new purchasing priorities also helped support California-grown wheat and milling, as well as better-paying jobs for distribution workers.
SPUR, in coalition with partners including Teamsters Joint Council 7 and the Mayor’s Task Force on Anti-Human Trafficking, has been encouraging both the hospitals and jails to join the school district in adopting the Good Food Purchasing Program. We look forward to seeing the results of the hospital’s study and are hopeful the Sheriff’s Department will conduct an evaluation for the jails. For forward-thinking food programs, like those at the hospitals, the evaluation will help provide recognition for the good work that’s already being done. Looking ahead, the next step will be setting targets and timelines so that these public agencies can do even more to align their purchasing in support of good food.