In February 2019, Austin Independent School District (AISD) adopted the Good Food Purchasing Program as part of its commitment to use its food purchases to promote the production and consumption of healthy, fair, and sustainable food. The Program is poised to have a big impact for students, food vendors, workers, farmers, and other stakeholders in the area. Austin Independent School District serves approximately 75,000 meals per day and manages a $12 million annual food budget.
AISD’s adoption of the Good Food Purchasing Program was the result of a three-year pilot program in which the school district worked alongside community groups and other public intuitions, including University of Texas at Austin and the City of Austin, to improve institutional food procurement.
Cities, school districts, and other public institutions spend billions of dollars every year on food. These choices have a huge impact on everything from local businesses to public health. However, purchasing decisions are often based on the cheapest bid—not the best food. The Good Food Purchasing Program is a national, metrics-based, flexible framework to help cities and public institutions shift their food purchases to support five core values: strong local economies, protecting the environment, worker rights, animal welfare, and nutrition.
Early on, AISD’s Executive Director of Food Services and Warehouse Operations, Annelise Tanner, saw the Program’s potential for helping the district advance its mission of “supporting the achievement of all students by expanding food access, serving healthy, tasty meals, and providing learning opportunities about nutrition, cultural foodways, and the food system” and to do so in a way that also supports the local economy and environment. So, Tanner proposed the policy to District Superintendent Paul Cruz and, with the help of partners in the Austin Good Food Purchasing Coalition, they got to work.
According to Tanner, “The Good Food Purchasing Program provides a simple framework for AISD to use in communicating with stakeholders about where we are with our purchasing goals, why we make the purchasing decisions that we do, and where we’re headed next.”
Convened by the Austin Office of Sustainability, the Austin Good Food Purchasing Coalition includes three core implementing partners: Austin Independent School District, University of Texas at Austin Division of Housing and Food Services, and the Austin Convention Center Department and Levy Restaurants.
In addition to these core institutions, the Austin Coalition benefits from the input and support of the following partners: Sustainable Food Center, Texas Center for Local Foods, Austin Technology Incubator, Equitable Food Initiative, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and Huston-Tillotson University.
Congratulations to Austin Independent School District on its adoption of the Good Food Purchasing Program, AISD Nutrition & Food Services for its leadership, and the Austin Good Food Purchasing Coalition for its tireless work advancing good food for all in Austin and beyond.