Alameda County Joins a Growing Movement to Buy Better Food

Alameda County correctional facilities spend more than $20 million annually on food, and until now, there was no way to evaluate whether these purchases live up to the values of the county. This changed on January 26 when the Alameda County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a resolution, championed by Supervisor Wilma Chan, to assess current food purchases against the Good Food Purchasing standards to see how well their food purchasing supports a healthy, local, sustainable and fair food supply chain.

The Good Food Purchasing Program standards, set forth by the Center for Good Food Purchasing, are based on five core values: 

  • Local economies: Support small and mid-sized agricultural and food processing operations within the local area or region.
  • Nutrition: Promote health and well-being by offering generous portions of vegetables, fruit, whole grains and minimally processed foods, while eliminating artificial additives and reducing salt, added sugars, saturated fats and red meat consumption. Improve equity, affordability, accessibility and consumption of high-quality, culturally relevant food in all communities.
  • Valued workforce: Provide safe and healthy working conditions and fair compensation for all food chain workers and producers, from production to consumption.
  • Environmental sustainability: Source from producers that employ sustainable production systems that reduce or eliminate synthetic pesticides and fertilizers; avoid the use of hormones, routine antibiotics and genetic engineering; conserve soil and water; protect and enhance wildlife habitats and biodiversity; reduce on-farm energy and water consumption, food waste and greenhouse gas emissions; and increase menu options that have lower carbon and water footprints.
  • Animal welfare: Provide healthy and humane care for farm animals.

In addition, the resolution calls on smaller departments that spend less on food to participate in the Good Food Purchasing Pledge. This means they must implement at least one Good Food Purchasing best practice in each of the five value categories every year. Best practices include changes like offering plant-based options at all meals, purchasing directly from at least one small-scale farm within 250 miles or providing free tap water instead of serving bottled water. 

The Good Food Purchasing Program, which SPUR has been advocating for in the Bay Area since 2016, builds greater institutional demand for good food and is now active in 45 institutions across the country. Alameda County is one of the first counties in the country to test the Good Food Purchasing Pledge to bring together more departments in support of good food. This move to align county food purchasing practices with the Good Food Purchasing Program’s values is a significant step toward a more just and sustainable food system that serves some of the county's most under-resourced residents.  

SPUR is also actively advocating for Santa Clara County to follow in the footsteps of both Alameda and San Francisco counties by adopting a similar resolution. We will continue to provide updates on food purchasing policies and improvements across the region.