A women sorting fresh produce in a warehouse. A women sorting fresh produce in a warehouse.

Researchers Investigate the Promise of Food Procurement

Fort Collins, CO

  • Urban Food Systems

Public food procurement plays a critical role in feeding many people worldwide, particularly children from food insecure households. Further, it is widely acknowledged that this spending can be leveraged to meet a variety of goals, including related to climate. Yet determining how to set these public food procurement policies is complex. To better understand these complexities, the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) is awarding $954,556 to Colorado State University (CSU). CSU, Cornell University, Glynwood Center for Regional Food and Farming, NY Farm Viability Institute and The Rockefeller Foundation are providing matching funds for a total $2,023,732 investment.

Food procurement, which involves sourcing, purchasing and managing food logistics, poses many challenges, including supply chain disruptions, price volatility, regulatory considerations and policy constraints. Public institutions often procure in high volumes in order to serve their sizable populations, resulting in significant purchasing power and influence. As such, institutions can positively affect the food system environment by making food purchases that align with regional goals and policies, support local producers and business and are sustainable and environmentally friendly.

Food procurement is a complex process that has many associated rules, regulations and challenges, especially with local procurement efforts. The way institutions purchase food can positively impact a food system and strong modeling will better support their decision-making process and the food purchasing environment. John Reich, Ph.D.
Scientific Program Director
Bolstering Healthy Food Systems

Dr. Becca Jablonksi, associate professor and co-director of CSU’s food system institute, previously received a FFAR Tipping Points grant. Jablonski and her team evaluated the potential for Denver-based food policies to support food system efforts statewide, with a specific focus on bringing regional stakeholders into the discussion with urban decision-makers. The team studied potential economic, environmental, social and health impacts resulting from implementing the Good Food Purchasing Program (GFPP), an initiative designed to promote healthier, more sustainable food procurement practices. The GFPP aims to transform how institutions purchase food, creating a more equitable and transparent food system, by providing a metric based, flexible framework that helps institutions meet their goals. However, further modeling is needed to simulate the complex nature of food systems and how stakeholders interact and affect the food policy environment.

Building upon the Tipping Points research, Jablonski and her team aim to co-create a replicable and adaptable model that municipalities can use to guide food procurement decisions. This research extends previous modeling and focuses on New York City, one of the largest purchasers of food in the United States, spending more than $300 million annually. New York City’s intricate and complex food system provides opportunity for model development on a large scale and that includes numerous stakeholders to support food purchasing decision making.

As cities across the world leverage public food procurement to meet a myriad of climate, health, community development and economic goals it is critical to understand the tradeoffs and co-benefits of these policies and programs,” said Jablonski. “This research will be guided by partners in New York City working with farmers and other supply chain stakeholders in New York State and supported by a national and international advisory team to support model replicability. Dr. Becca Jablonksi
Associate Professor And Co-director Of Colorado State Univeisty’s Food System Institute

Researchers aim to extend the modeling effort developed as part FFAR’s Tipping Points Program to understand the tradeoffs associated with the implementation of different potential procurement scenarios for New York City food procurement. Researchers are creating a replicable model and process to ensure local procurement policies can meet established goals.

“More cities across the U.S. and globally are considering how the money they spend on food can drive better outcomes for their broader communities, including by addressing the climate crisis,” said Alexandra Payne, senior associate for Food Initiative, The Rockefeller Foundation. “Cities need additional tools and modeling, like those this work will develop, to create and implement food policies that support better, more equitable outcomes for human health, economic growth and the environment.”


Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research

The Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) builds public-private partnerships to fund bold research addressing big food and agriculture challenges. FFAR was established in the 2014 Farm Bill to increase public agriculture research investments, fill knowledge gaps and complement the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s research agenda. FFAR’s model matches federal funding from Congress with private funding, delivering a powerful return on taxpayer investment. Through collaboration and partnerships, FFAR advances actionable science benefiting farmers, consumers and the environment.

Connect: @FoundationFAR

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