On June 27, 2022, the New York City Council Committees on Contracts, Economic Development, and Oversight and Investigations held a joint hearing on the Good Food Purchasing Program (GFPP). NYHealth Senior Program Officer Julia McCarthy submitted the following testimony highlighting additional opportunities for implementing GFPP:

Chairpersons Won, Farías, and Brewer, as well as the distinguished members of the Committees on Contracts, Economic Development, and Oversight and Investigations:

The New York Health Foundation (NYHealth) is grateful for the opportunity to submit testimony on the Good Food Purchasing Program. NYHealth is a private, independent foundation that works to improve the health of all New Yorkers. Our Healthy Food, Healthy Lives program seeks to advance policies and programs that connect New Yorkers with the food they need to thrive.[1] Supporting healthier, culturally responsive food in public institutions—including schools, Head Start programs, senior centers, and homeless shelters—is a core strategy of this program.

NYHealth Has a Long-Standing Commitment to the Good Food Purchasing Program
The Good Food Purchasing Program (GFPP) is a leading model for food systems change, guiding public institutions to make purchases that align with nutrition, local economies, environmental sustainability, valued workforce, and animal welfare. At the State level, NYHealth has invested in efforts to make it easier for municipalities, including New York City, to purchase better quality food—food that aligns with GFPP. At the City level, we are supporting the New York City Mayor’s Office of Food Policy (MOFP) to dramatically shift food purchasing for the approximately 240 million meals City agencies serve each year. Currently, NYHealth funds are enabling MOFP to work with a consultant with a deep understanding of the City’s procurement processes to help implement GFPP across the City’s many food procuring agencies.

New York City Has Taken Important Steps to Implement the Good Food Purchasing Program
In 2021, through its 10-Year food plan, Food Forward NYC, the City identified key strategies to implement GFPP.[2] That same year, a baseline assessment overseen by MOFP helped to determine agencies’ food procurement practices. This year, Executive Order 8 formalized the current administration’s commitment to implement GFPP.[3]

To turn these public commitments into action, MOFP is working behind the scenes to develop a detailed workplan that aligns agencies’ actions, looking at specific regulations, bidding processes, and infrastructure for each City agency. This workplan, to be published in the next year, will include recommendations for:

  • Regulatory language that agencies can use to designate preference for products from local farmers and Minority and Women Owned Business Enterprises (M/WBEs);
  • Ways to simplify solicitation language and accelerate review;
  • Contractual terms that are more inclusive of smaller businesses, including local farmers and M/WBEs;
  • Methods to effectively communicate with smaller vendors about potential contractual opportunities; and
  • A model to ensure GFPP monitoring and enforcement are consistent across agencies.

The City Should Continue to Invest in Good Food Purchasing Program Implementation
Changing the procurement practices for the more than 240 million meals served each year through New York City public agencies will be no small feat. For MOFP to implement the GFPP workplan and its recommendations, it will need the City’s long-term support. To support MOFP in this endeavor, the City Council should:

  • Codify the City’s commitment to implement GFPP.  Shifting more than $500 million in food purchases is likely to take longer than a single Mayoral term. Executive Order 8 has the full force of law under this administration, but subsequent Mayors or City Councils could revoke the City’s commitment to implement GFPP. The Council could provide a stronger safeguard to ensure that agencies working to overhaul their procurement practices have the time they need to do so successfully.
  • Ensure that MOFP has the resources it needs to coordinate GFPP implementation. NYC’s public school system serves 200 million meals each year, more meals on any given day than any other institution in the United States besides the military. Coordinating with the New York City Department of Education on school meals alone would be an enormous undertaking, but MOFP will be responsible for working with multiple City agencies, as well as with external parties also interested in GFPP. To successfully coordinate and potentially monitor and enforce GFPP across these numerous entities, MOFP needs adequate funding and staff.
  • Establish a mechanism to help ensure agencies’ contracts comply with GFPP. The aforementioned workplan will propose a mechanism to monitor and enforce GFPP across agencies. The City’s public procurement processes are already time-consuming and cumbersome. Any mechanism adopted must strike a realistic balance between the huge volume of food contracts that the City processes each year with fidelity to GFPP’s five value categories. And adequate resources should support whichever body (for example, the Mayor’s Office of Food Policy) is responsible for this monitoring and enforcement mechanism.
  • Continue to educate State lawmakers on the need for greater flexibility in food procurement.  Public agencies paying the lowest cost for paperclips may make sense, but purchasing the lowest cost food may negatively impact the public’s health, environment, workforce, local economy, and animals’ wellbeing. State law currently makes it difficult for municipalities like New York City to purchase better quality food. City Council members can join efforts led by New York City advocates to educate State officials on the need for more permissive public procurement laws for food.

Ultimately, harnessing New York City agencies’ food purchasing power and practices can help to transform the food system. NYHealth is grateful for the City Council’s shared recognition of the important role that GFPP can play in promoting food security and dietary health. We look forward to continuing to partner to strengthen City agency meals.

[1] New York Health Foundation. Healthy Food, Healthy Lives. June 2022. https://nyhealthfoundation.org/what-we-fund/healthy-food-healthy-lives/.

[2] N.Y.C. Office of Food Policy. Food Forward NYC: A 10-Year Food Policy Plan. February 2021. https://www1.nyc.gov/site/foodpolicy/reports-and-data/food-forward.page.

[3] N.Y.C. Office of the Mayor. Executive Order 8: Commitment to Health and Nutrition: Food Standards and Good Food Purchasing. February 10, 2022. https://home3.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/008-002/executive-order-8.

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