Alameda County Passes Resolution Bringing “Good Food” to Correctional Facilities

Katie Ettman, SPUR

Alameda County, Calif. (January 26, 2021) — Jail food is notoriously terrible. A recent report by Oakland-based nonprofit Impact Justice exposed how millions of people in the prison system are subjected to undernourishment, fed an unhealthy diet linked to diet-related disease, and are six times more likely to contract food-borne illnesses. Today, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a resolution to not only improve food in county correctional facilities, but invest in local, sustainable, fair, and humane food at the same time.

The landmark resolution adopts the Good Food Purchasing Program, outlining a plan for assessing the Sheriff’s Office and Probation Department’s food purchases. It also commits the county to moving towards food procurement that aligns with the Program’s five values: local economies, nutrition, valued workforce, environmental sustainability, and animal welfare.

The resolution—introduced by Supervisor Wilma Chan and approved on January 26, 2021—outlines multiple key actions:

  • Completing an assessment of current food purchasing within a six-month to determine current alignment with the five values
  • Reporting back to the Board of Supervisors with action plans for improvement within six months after the initial assessment is completed
  • Calling on additional departments to participate in the Good Food Purchasing Pledge and, in so doing, commit to implementing at least one Good Food Purchasing best practice in each value category every year.
  • Implementing the Program with a focus on transparency, accountability, and equity, as well as prioritizing food purchases from businesses and producers that support workers’ rights.

The Good Food Purchasing Program was established in 2012 to shift institutional food purchases across the country in alignment with five core values and build institutional demand for good food. First adopted in Los Angeles, the Program is now active in 45 institutions across the country, from the San Francisco Bay Area to Chicago to Washington DC.

Alameda County spends over $20 million on food through the Sheriff’s Office and Probation Department. This move to align food purchasing practices with the Good Food Purchasing Program’s values is a significant step toward a more just and sustainable food system.

Alameda County’s move follows the adoption of the Good Food Purchasing Program by Oakland Unified School District in 2014; San Francisco Unified School District in 2016; and the City and County of San Francisco in 2020.

Katie Ettman of San Francisco-based nonprofit SPUR commented, “public agencies can support a regional food economy, environmentally-friendly agricultural practices, and healthier diets through the terms of their procurement contracts. The Good Food Purchasing Program is a commitment by major public institutions to use their purchasing power to do just that…By joining pioneering school districts, cities and counties across the country, the County has an opportunity to deepen its commitment to a more just and equitable food system.”