By Robert S. Ogilvie, vice president for strategic engagement at ChangeLab Solutions
Any organizations that buy and distribute large amounts of food – government agencies, schools, businesses – have a huge impact on health.
How can they use this power to promote healthy eating?
Adopting healthier procurement (purchasing) policies can help improve public health, lower overall costs, and set an example for other institutions to do the same. Through procurement policies, government agencies and businesses can improve the nutrition of the food they or their contractors buy and serve or sell.
The policies can cover meals sold in cafeterias, food provided at meetings and conferences, and food and beverages sold in vending machines.
Governments generally have discretion over the type of foods they procure, depending on the source of the funds they use to purchase the food. Businesses have complete discretion over the types of foods they procure.
Where is healthy procurement happening?
- In Tennessee, Governor Phil Bredesen issued an executive order requiring state agencies to (1) set minimum nutritional standards for food and beverages sold on certain state properties and (2) make recommendations for the food provided to state employees at breaks, meetings, conferences, and other work-related events on state property.
- The city council of Baldwin Park, Calif., passed a resolution requiring all city vending machines to carry only products that meet certain nutritional standards. A city staff person has been designated to monitor implementation and compliance and report back to the mayor and city council every six months.
- Pasadena, Calif., passed a healthy food vending policy setting nutrition standards for all snacks and beverages sold in vending machines on city property, and those served at all meetings and events using city funds.
- In Delaware, the Division of Parks and Recreation partnered with Nemours Health and Prevention Services and the Delaware Health and Social Services’ Division of Public Health (DPH) to adopt the Nemours Healthy Concessions Guide and the Healthy Vending Guide. The initiative is designed to ensure that healthy food and beverage choices are available in outlets where the parks division has direct purchasing authority, including vending machines and campground stores.
Government agencies and businesses in any community can follow their lead, using their substantial purchasing power to improve public health.
ChangeLab Solutions offers an array of tools to help make healthy procurement a reality, including Understanding Healthy Procurement: Using Government’s Purchasing Power to Increase Access to Healthy Food.
Robert Ogilvie serves as the Vice President for Strategic Engagement at ChangeLab Solutions. Over the past 20 years he has worked extensively in community development and planning to help improve low- and middle-income neighborhoods.
Prior to joining ChangeLab Solutions, he served as a faculty member in the Department of City and Regional Planning at the University of California at Berkeley; as a consultant to city and county governments, nonprofit organizations, and neighborhood activists; and as Director of Volunteers at the Partnership for the Homeless in New York City. He is the author of Voluntarism, Community Life, and the American Ethic (Indiana University Press, 2004), and co-author of Opening School Grounds to the Community After Hours: A Toolkit on Joint Use.
Robert is a member of the Editorial Board of Community Development: Journal of the Community Development Society and is a member of the American Planning Association, the American Public Health Association, the California Redevelopment Association, the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association, and the Urban Land Institute.
Robert holds a PhD in political science from Columbia University.