Procuring Food Justice is a report of
Food Chain Workers Alliance and HEAL Food Alliance

Produced in partnership with Good Food Communities members

By leveraging the power of big institutional contracts, we can demand that food corporations live up to our community values or make way for suppliers that will.

Executive Summary

Every year billions of tax dollars go to public institutions to feed their communities, particularly vulnerable groups like children, the elderly, the incarcerated, and the sick. Unfortunately, the system used to buy that food—public procurement—is rigged by the corporations that dominate our food system. These corporations corner institutional procurement markets, using taxpayer dollars to consolidate power. Their stranglehold on this market means they get away with feeding low-quality food to vulnerable communities, exploiting their workers, and harming the planet—all to increase their profit margins.

Over the last decade, Food Chain Workers Alliance and HEAL Food Alliance have worked with grassroots leaders to challenge the corporate control of institutional procurement markets and replace it with a different model: values-based food purchasing. The mechanism for carrying out this strategy is the Good Food Purchasing Program. When public institutions purchase food according to community values, our taxpayer dollars contribute to a more democratic and equitable food system. By leveraging the power of big institutional contracts, we can demand that food corporations live up to our community values or make way for suppliers that will.

After successfully passing Good Food Purchasing Policies in ten cities—thereby influencing over $540 million in public food dollars—our members and close partners created the Good Food Communities (GFC) campaign to define the next iteration of our collective work. The GFC campaign builds on past successes by focusing on strengthening supplier transparency and justice for frontline workers and Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC)[1] communities.[2]

[1] As a broad term encompassing multiple racial groups, some see the term “BIPOC” as a poor representation of their identity, particularly when a more specific term could be used. Recognizing this, we aim to be as specific as possible throughout the report. We use the term “BIPOC” to indicate the diverse groups of people who have been shut out of a system rooted in white supremacy.
[2] While environmental justice is not a central focus of this report, it’s one of GFC’s priority outcomes and is closely related to the analyses and recommendations included in the last section.


FCWA and HEAL conducted in-depth, rigorous research from September 2021 to March 2023, gathering analyses from our diverse network of members, partners, and allies. This report draws from the lived experiences and testimonies of organizers and advocates on the ground, including 83 partner surveys of frontline food workers in production (FL) and warehousing (IL); case studies with farmers (MN), food aggregators (NY, NM), and processing plant workers (MO); as well 50 interviews with organizers, farmers, advocates, and academics. From this breadth of knowledge, we examine how public food procurement in its current form contributes to corporate exploitation, explore the origins of the Good Food Purchasing Program, spotlight the key role of grassroots leaders, and draw from a decade of lessons learned to make key recommendations for the road ahead.

By sharing this collective knowledge, we hope to strengthen the impacts of values-based food purchasing.


Our research methodology included a literature review, a food worker survey, three case studies of BIPOC producers, one case study of workers at a meat processing facility, and over 50 interviews (including those conducted for case studies, and survey follow-up interviews). Report authors conducted a literature review of relevant primary and secondary resources, including: US Government data from the departments of Commerce, Agriculture, and Labor, federal, state, and municipal legislation, corporate financial reports, non-profit reports, academic journals, and news articles. FCWA and HEAL collaborated with member organizations to design a 26-question survey which was conducted in person during the summer of 2022 by worker organizers from FCWA member organizations, Farmworker Association of Florida, and Warehouse Workers for Justice; 83 food workers completed the survey, including 40 farmworkers in rural Florida, and 43 warehouse workers in the Chicago Metropolitan area. Over the course of 2022, through three days of fieldwork and many iterative interviews, authors conducted three case studies of small-scale BIPOC producer and distributor organizations in Minnesota, New York, and New Mexico, who have experience supplying food to public institutions. The meat processing facility workers’ case study was conducted by report contributors through long-form interviews with workers collaborating with (FCWA and HEAL Alliance member) Rural Communities Workers’ Alliance (RCWA) in December 2022. In all, authors conducted over 50 structured and semi-structured interviews for the report, held in person, via video conference, and over the phone. Interviewees included: 14 food workers (including farmworkers, farmers, warehouse workers, meat processing workers, slaughterhouse cleaners, food hub operators, food transport workers, and cooks); 11 worker organizers from around the US; 20 advocates from government and non-profit organizations; and eight professionals and academics (including health professionals, institutional procurement officials, and individuals with expertise in labor law, procurement law, food policy, and immigration). Unless noted otherwise, all quotes throughout the report and the accompanying case studies are drawn from those interviews or other correspondences with the authors of the report.


With gratitude for everyone who made this report possible:

Report research and production:

Winston Moore, Lead Researcher
Christina Spach, Food Chain Workers Alliance
Elizabeth Walle, Food Chain Workers Alliance
Jose Lopez, Food Chain Workers Alliance
Jose Oliva, HEAL Food Alliance
Tanya Kerssen, Real Food Media


Laura Nussbaum-Barberena and Raj Patel

report layout and design:

Christina Bronsing-Lazalde, Real Food Media




Neza Xiuhtecutli, Tommy Carden, Suzanne Adely, Mark Balentine, Doug Bloch, Anna Canning, David Chen, Leah Cohen, Sarah Grace Crowley, Dennis Derryck, Patrick Dixon, Katie Ettman, Axel Fuentes, Helga Garcia-Garza, Addisalem Gebrekidan, Ribka Getachew, Jessica Gilbert, Jakob Gilleylen, Dinesh Das Gupta, Riley Hite, Hannah Holmes, Sara Hoverter, Dakarai Howard, Stuart Karaffa, Navina Khanna, HeeWon Khym, Brenda Li, Annie Liu, Joann Lo, Shaun Martinez, Moses Momanyi, Julie Monrad, Lauren Newman, Dennis Olson, Magda Orlander, Taylor Pate, Anila Podila, Claire Schmitt, Tariq Sheriff, Sonia Singh, Bob Stumberg, Jessica Swan, Ian Warren, Elaine Waxman, Rebekah Williams, and Marlie Wilson.

Members of the Good Food Communities campaign:


Panta Rhea Foundation

And appreciation for all our GFPP Partners:  

ASPCA, Berkeley Food Institute, Center for Good Food Purchasing, Change Lab Solutions, Chicago Food Policy Action Council, Cincinnati Interfaith Workers Center, Community Food Advocates, DC Greens, Domestic Fair Trade Association, Farm Forward, Friends of the Earth, Institute for People Place & Possibility, Good Food Buffalo Coalition, Greater Cincinnati Regional Food Policy Council, Hope Collaborative, Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, Land Stewardship Project, Los Angeles Food Policy Council, Massachusetts Farm to School, National Farm to School Network, Oakland Food Policy Council, Pittsburgh Food Policy Council, Policy Link, Real Food Media, San Diego Food System Alliance, SPUR, Teamsters, UFCW, Union of Concerned Scientists, Urban School Food Alliance, and other food system allies.

Introduction: From an Exploitative to a Values-Based Food System

Procurement in Our Current Food System

In our current food system, the workers who feed the country struggle to feed their own families. Over the last decade, food industry jobs accounted for seven of the ten lowest paying jobs in the United States.[3]

These underpaid frontline food workers are predominantly people of color, women, and immigrants.[i] In 2021, people in the United States spent more than $2 trillion on food.[ii] Very little of that money, however, went to the roughly 21 million workers who ensured that food made its way to our tables. So where did that money go?

Whether we’re eating at home, school, work, or in a restaurant, a handful of corporations control the supply chains that feed us.[iii] These corporations have seized control of our food system through consolidation and political lobbying to deregulate markets.[iv] By following the money, we can see who holds the power in the food system—and how they maintain that power. This can inform our strategies to build a fair, equitable, and sustainable food system.

[3] The most recent data from 2021 shows food industry jobs account for five out of ten of the worst paying jobs. This apparent improvement is most likely due to a number of factors including BLS changing how it groups certain job categories and food workers organizing for wage improvements since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. See: US Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics Tables.”

Of the $2 trillion spent on food in the United States in 2021, nearly half was spent on food eaten at home.[v] Sixty-nine percent of grocery purchases were funneled through just four companies, with 34 percent going to Walmart alone.[4] Those massive retailers source from food giants like PepsiCo and Nestlé, which dominate the markets for most of our favorite foods.[vi]

When we think of eating out, we mostly think of restaurants. Though there are more than 600,000 restaurants in the United States, fast food chains take in about half of all restaurant industry revenue.[vii] We also consume food at places like sporting arenas, museums, and amusement parks. The ten dollar hotdog you bought at the ballpark came from a Food Service Management Company (FSMC), most likely from one of what Real Food Generation calls “The Big Three.”[viii] These three companies— Aramark, Sodexo, and Compass Group—dominate the supply chains for concession stands and cafeterias across the country. Together, their domestic revenue (about $30 billion per year) is more than twice that of the next 45 biggest FSMCs combined.[ix]

The Big Three also largely control the food supply chains of taxpayer-funded institutions: public schools, hospitals, and city governments. These institutions use tax dollars to purchase food by “procuring” it through FSMCs or directly from food companies.

[4] Counting Walmart and Sam’s Club as one entity. See: Food and Water Watch, The Economic Cost of Food Monopolies.

So how does procurement currently work? To procure its food, an institution first sends out a list of its needs.[5] Next, suppliers enter a bidding contest, and whoever submits the “best” bid wins a contract to provide food for the institution. Depending on the institution’s size, these bids can be anywhere from a few hundred thousand dollars to tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars. Just as we see in other markets, a select few food corporations control institutional procurement markets. Together, the Big Three make more than half of their $30 billion in revenue supplying food to schools and healthcare centers.[x]

For so-called self-operated procurement, when institutions skip FSMC middle-men, contracts are largely with food giants like Tyson Foods and General Mills, which make about 29 percent ($13.7 billion) and 10 percent ($1.8 billion) of their sales (respectively) through food service contracts.[xi] When FSMCs procure food for an institution, they contract out to those same mega-corporations for the foods they send to institutions.

Public institutions have limited budgets with which to procure their food and most are mandated to follow a “lowest cost bidder” or “lowest responsive and responsible bidder” requirement for their procurement process. This requirement means that once a potential supplier has met the institution’s basic needs, the institution must award the contract to the lowest cost bidder. Big suppliers’ legacy of procurement contracts provides them with strong relationships with institutions, as well as the money, infrastructure, connections, and logistical capacity to supply vast amounts of food. They’re also able to meet “lowest cost” requirements by sourcing food that’s mass produced, subsidized, under regulated, and unethical. The Reagan Administration helped normalize the lowest bidder mandate for procurement contracts. In 1986, New York City rejected a Kodak procurement contract because the corporation funded apartheid South Africa’s military, despite Kodak being the lowest bidder. The Reagan administration promptly withheld $500 million in federal funding from the city until it agreed to procure from Kodak.[xii] The true cost of this cheap food is the exploitation of food workers around the world and colossal damage to our health and planet.[xiii]

[5] Via an Invitation for Bids (IFB)/Request for Proposal, which list all the institutions’ requirements.

Food Service Management Company Kickbacks

The suppliers that repeatedly sell food to FSMCs are known as “preferred vendors”. These preferred vendors pay FSMCs lots of money—kickbacks in the form of volume-discounts and rebates—to ensure FSMCs continue to buy from them.[i] This means that when an FSMC contracts with a preferred vendor like Smithfield, for instance, Smithfield might give the FSMC a 15 percent discount on honey-baked ham to incentivize continued business. The FSMC can then sell that ham to the institution for 5 percent off, which seems like a good deal for the institution. Meanwhile, the FSMC can keep the extra 10 percent for themselves, in addition to the profits from the institutional contract.

The market dominance of FSMCs and major corporations creates the perception that they’re the only possible sources of food for public institutions, allowing them to ignore public pressure to provide better wages, prices, services, or quality.[xv] The lack of accountability engenders a cycle wherein power breeds more power, and an ever greater capacity to rig procurement markets—and our food system as a whole.

This report presents collective learnings of the Good Food Communities (GFC) campaign and its allies on how to break this vicious cycle by using values-based procurement to:


  • hold corporations accountable for the exploitation in their supply chains, and

  • replace exploitative corporations with suppliers who are building a sustainable food system.

Why Values-Based Procurement?

Public institutions collectively spend about $120 billion each year to procure their food.[xvi] Those billions largely bankroll FSMCs’ and major suppliers’ control of the food system, allowing them to send low quality food to the most vulnerable among us: children, the sick, the incarcerated, and the elderly. To lower costs and increase profit margins, these suppliers exploit their workers and use extractive practices that disproportionately pollute BIPOC communities.[xvii] However, if institutions adopt a values-based purchasing model, in which they change their procurement practices to reflect the values of the communities they serve, they can redirect billions of dollars toward building a more ethical food system.  As the Union of Concerned Scientists points out:

When these institutions set progressive standards for food procurement—for instance, requiring their suppliers to treat workers fairly, observe nutritional guidelines, and source food whenever possible from local farmers—they give a boost to the good food movement that can reverberate far beyond the populations they serve directly.[xviii]

Values-based procurement programs like the Good Food Purchasing Program push institutions to direct their buying power toward creating a food system that is local, sustainable, fair, humane, and healthy.

Aligned with Good Food Purchasing Program goals, the Good Food Communities campaign seeks to leverage values-based procurement to:

DIVEST from institutional suppliers that uphold and profit from a model of food production that is structurally racist, exploitative, and unsustainable.

INVEST in suppliers that advance racial equity, workers’ rights, climate justice, and transparency.

This divest/invest framework explicitly aims to dismantle large corporations’ ability to monopolize institutional supply chains.  Simultaneously, it supports replacing large corporations with diverse, small, and BIPOC producers and distributors who employ sustainable food practices and reflect community values like fair wages and good working conditions.

Origins of the Good Food Purchasing Program

The Good Food Purchasing Program (GFPP) was seeded in 2012 by members of the Los Angeles Food Policy Council (LAFPC) and grew from previous organizing efforts, including those to eradicate sweatshop labor in the city’s apparel supply chains. It was also born of the recognition that, while programs existed to promote healthy, local food in public institutions, the conditions of workers in those same supply chains remained unexamined. The labor rights issue was often considered too political in food procurement spaces. GFPP brought a much-needed intersectional approach to institutional food purchasing. It was built around five, equally-important values:

Image: courtesy of the Center for Good Food Purchasing

Countless organizers, community leaders, and policy advocates across the five values were involved in developing GFPP. For the Food Chain Workers Alliance (FCWA), leveraging public food procurement was a tool to protect frontline workers. Joann Lo, former FCWA Co-Director and LAFPC Leadership Committee Chair recounted:

In 2011, [FCWA] members began exploring strategies for building worker power across all sectors of the food supply chain. At the same time, the Los Angeles Food Policy Council was exploring ways to influence how public food purchasing could play a role in food system transformation and began building what would become the Good Food Purchasing Program. With the drafting of a set of labor standards by worker justice organizations and labor partners, the Good Food Purchasing Program emerged as a way to push public supply chains in supporting worker-led certification programs, union contracts, and worker-owned cooperatives.

The coalition of grassroots leaders at LAFPC worked tirelessly to build GFPP, cultivate champions of the Program, and foster policy adoption. External support from the Los Angeles community was coupled with internal support from various institutional stakeholders—including city leadership, policymakers, and food service directors. In October of 2012, LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa issued an executive order for city departments to implement GFPP. The Los Angeles City Council and Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) built on the Mayor’s leadership, each passing a Good Food Purchasing Policy that secured a long-term commitment to the Program and applied to all city and school district purchasing.

The LA success story convinced organizers, advocates, and institutions across the country that the Program could and should be replicated in other US cities. It also demonstrated how a model using both internal and external leadership could be successful in advancing policy adoption and program implementation.

The Role of Coalitions and Organizing

Public institutions play a valuable role in the execution of values-based food purchasing. However, they are often removed from the workers, producers, and communities directly affected by the food they purchase and serve. Grassroots coalitions can make sure the experience and needs of those most impacted are heard. They ensure that transformation is felt by those on the ground, use their organizing capacity to pressure corporations, and help institutions stay accountable to the local community.

Knowing the critical role of organizing, FCWA launched a national campaign to support grassroots leaders in building coalitions across the country. Local coalitions include people with expertise ranging across the five values: community organizers, frontline food workers, labor leaders, farmers, policy advocates, public health officers, and animal welfare and environmental sustainability advocates. Recognizing that both internal and external strategies are required, the Center for Good Food Purchasing was founded in 2015 to provide implementation support and supply chain analysis to participating institutions.

The work soon spread, with coalition leadership proving critical to building multi-sectoral spaces, fostering grassroots organizing capacity, and centering the decision-making and leadership of frontline communities and workers. There are various examples of how coalition members with community organizing skills have played a key role in GFPP expansion and accountable implementation. In California, Oakland and Los Angeles modeled early victories for workers–blocking contracts with exploitative employers, and winning a policy to improve workers’ wages.

“In 2016, when workers at a processing facility near the San Francisco Bay Area, California, were experiencing dangerous working conditions, they organized with local labor leaders to help make a case for why area institutions like Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) needed to hold their suppliers accountable to fair labor practices. By building on existing efforts by district staff, school parents, and nutrition advocates, these labor leaders led the way to the school district adopting GFPP.[xix] Doug Bloch, Political Director of the Teamster Joint Council 7, remembered:

We held a community hearing on Taylor Farms where we invited workers from across the supply chain that handled their products, including Taylor Farms workers from Tracy [California], McDonald’s workers from Oakland who were organizing with the Fight for 15, and a United Food and Commercial Workers’ clerk. At that hearing, an Oakland Unified School District Board Member announced that the district had canceled their contract with Taylor Farms. This whole issue became the impetus for the school district to adopt the Good Food Purchasing Program, so they could better deal with these situations in the future.

Formal policy adoption, coupled with local organizing efforts, led to the creation of 220 new union warehouse and transportation jobs in Los Angeles County.[xx] The policy also served as leverage for coalition and labor partners to block violating suppliers from institutional food contracts (including food distributor A&R and poultry giant Tyson) on the basis of egregious labor practices and enforce worker protections in the face of union-busting tactics. Respecting workers’ right to organize is a requirement of suppliers when selling to public institutions participating in GFPP. Teamsters Local 63 and Joint Council 42 leaned on this requirement to stop a local distributor in the Los Angeles Unified School District’s supply chain from intimidating its employees who were seeking union representation. Randy Cammack, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 63 and President of Teamsters Joint Council 42, commented:

When drivers with a local school food distributor reached out to us for help to improve their wages and address unsafe working conditions, the company fought their efforts as most employers do. We reached out to our local school board to find out what the consequences were if the employer continued to interfere with workers’ rights to organize, and the Good Food Purchasing Program became an indispensable tool in our fight that culminated in the drivers achieving a life-changing first collective bargaining agreement.

Since the right to organize is a baseline requirement of the GFPP labor standards, several members of the LAUSD school board contacted the supplying distributor to share their concern about the union busting behavior. This pushback from LAUSD led to the distributor’s 150 drivers voting in favor of union representation by the Teamsters. Their union contract (won in August 2016) raised wages from $13/hour to a minimum of $19/hour, guaranteed raises over the next three years, and provided important job and safety protections.[xxi] Two years later, 170 warehouse workers with the same company won a union contract. Through a combination of worker organizing, school board leadership, and leveraging GFPP, these 320 frontline food workers won pay raises, protections against unfair treatment and discipline, a voice with management, and a new pay incentive program. These victories are a testament to strong workplace organizing and the ability to leverage GFPP as a tool for building worker power. As Raymond Aviles, a driver for the supplying distributor, shared:

With a Teamster contract, my family has much more stability. I can provide for my family and give my kids a better life. It also feels good to be part of an overall program that is better for schools, kids, local farmers, and other workers like me.[xxii]

These victories are a testament to strong workplace organizing and the ability to leverage Good Food Purchasing Program as a tool for building worker power.

Policy Adoption

Through years of trial and error, it has become clear that formal adoption of GFPP is an important component to this work. Where formal adoption isn’t present, the success and longevity of values-based purchasing rests on the shoulders of a few institutional leaders. When they leave, oftentimes so too does the commitment to values-based purchasing. Institutions can formally adopt GFPP by having their governing body pass policy that commits to the five values guiding food purchases, implementation of the GFPP Standards, and annual supply chain assessments and publicly accessible reporting.

Policy adoption is a vital step toward long-term success because:

  • It institutionalizes commitment to GFPP and allows for consistency regardless of how leadership of participating institutions shifts over time.
  • It provides an opportunity for community leaders working alongside elected officials and food service administrators to help shape key priorities for ongoing implementation by influencing what’s included in the policy.
  • The policy itself can provide leverage to complement existing and emerging organizing efforts across the public supply chain.

In the decade since GFPP’s launch, grassroots leaders across the country have fostered, deepened, and expanded values-based public procurement by building coalitions and winning policy adoptions at 15 public institutions in ten cities: Austin, Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Escondido (CA), Los Angeles, Oakland, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, and Washington DC.

Good Food Communities

While the Good Food Purchasing Program has built a solid foundation for values-based purchasing, there are still significant barriers to overcome in order for public supply chains to truly reflect our collective values:

  • Food workers in participating supply chains still experience poverty wages and dangerous workplace violations.
  • Producers and suppliers of color still face barriers to accessing institutional food contracts as well as information about these contracts.
  • Food suppliers and public institutions are often reluctant to share their sourcing data.
  • Good Food Purchasing Program policies vary on an institution’s long-term commitment and public engagement in implementation.

In 2018, a cohort of BIPOC organizers, FCWA and HEAL members, and close partners who had been working on GFPP for years highlighted these challenges. After deep assessment and discussions, this collective launched the Good Food Communities (GFC) campaign in 2019. The goal of Good Food Communities is to strengthen worker, racial, and environmental justice as well as supplier transparency outcomes in public procurement through policy and organizing. Leading this campaign are grassroots coalitions from the Bay Area (CA), Buffalo (NY), Chicago, Cincinnati, Gainesville, Milan (MO), New York City, and Washington DC with support from Food Chain Workers Alliance and HEAL Food Alliance.

Good Food Communities builds on previous successes of GFPP coalitions, with a focus on: gaining public access to supplier sourcing data; winning fair wages for frontline workers and the enforcement of worker protections; creating access to markets and infrastructure for small-scale BIPOC producers; and strengthening environmental protections.

The Good Food Communities campaign is committed to addressing systemic issues experienced by frontline workers and BIPOC producers. In this way, it takes the work of the Good Food Purchasing Program to a deeper level, refocusing food procurement initiatives to serve the people most impacted by food system injustices. That is why I joined, and that is why I stay involved.

Rebekah Williams

Co-Founder, Food for the Spirit

Member of the Good Food Communities campaign and Good Food Buffalo Coalition

Analysis from the Frontlines

Advancing Transparency

The food supply chain is extremely opaque and institutional procurement supply chains are no exception. Supplier transparency is critical to building fair and equitable supply chains: if institutions can’t access sourcing information, they can’t sufficiently assess their supply chains and if institutions don’t share sourcing information, Good Food Purchasing Program (GFPP) coalitions don’t know which suppliers to hold accountable for workplace violations. This absence of data impedes community and worker involvement as informed partners in GFPP implementation. 

Even after ten years of collective efforts, institutions are only able to obtain a sliver of the overall supply chain sourcing data—and rarely do they share this data publicly. This transparency deficit leaves large portions of the supply chain unaccounted for. Without farm-level sourcing data, for example, organizers can’t support institutions in determining whether farmworkers are treated fairly, nor whether the farms and the ingredients grown there are safe, ethical, or sustainable. For coalition partners and institutions trying to enforce labor standards, this lack of supply chain transparency forces them to rely on corporate-friendly certifications and limited government inspections that don’t cover all workplaces.[xxiii] 

This absence of data impedes community and worker involvement as informed partners in GFPP implementation.
True supplier transparency will only exist when institutions require bidders and suppliers to provide all relevant supply chain data via their solicitations, bids, and contracts.

True supplier transparency will only exist when institutions require bidders and suppliers to provide all relevant supply chain data via their solicitations, bids, and contracts.  What’s more, this supplier data would need to be made publicly available, regularly updated, and include workplace names and addresses across the entire supply chain.[6] Companies are unlikely to do this voluntarily. It will take significant public pressure to make data-sharing a requirement of doing business with public institutions.

[6] Of all workplaces used (not just headquarters) for each server, supplier, distributor, processor, and producer involved in the provision of the product(s) being supplied.


With a mandate to continuously increase shareholder value, food corporations seek ever-higher profits and an ever-greater control of their industry.[xxiv] Companies use this shareholder primacy mandate to justify profit-making endeavors that push the limits of what is legally permissible.[xxv] In their quest for market dominance, accountability is a threat to their success. Corporations will not improve transparency on their own, and they will try to resist or de-fang any attempts to push them toward it.

As the Good Food Communities campaign pushes for increased transparency, we must stay vigilant of corporate strategies to derail our work. When corporations structure their business model to maximize profit margins, they simultaneously create structural roadblocks to transparency and accountability. Many companies claim that if they have to disclose their suppliers, rivals could use the information to undercut them and poach those suppliers. There is ample evidence that this argument doesn’t hold water.[xxvi] When other plans to resist transparency fail, corporations often attempt to co-opt campaigns by championing the weakest, least enforceable policies.

Corporate structure

Large food companies often obscure sourcing data through vertical integration. Vertical integration is a method of consolidating power in which corporations acquire full or partial ownership of each step in the supply chain of their product. The aim is profit, but one side effect is the obscuring of supply chains through a complicated network of subsidiaries. These complex supply chains create monitoring hurdles and obstruct institutions’ and coalitions’ ability to hold suppliers accountable to Good Food Purchasing Standards.[xxvii][7] 

[7] A multinational food company might have different subsidiaries running operations in each region it does business in, each with their own list of subsidiaries, operating under different names, for each step of their supply chain. Compass Group, for example, owns more than 100 subsidiaries in the United States, and hundreds more across dozens of countries.[xxvii] In the United States, those 100+ subsidiaries include holding companies, food service companies like Bon Appétit, and catering companies like Wolfgang Puck Catering and Events, each with their own regional subsidiaries. Even if the coalition knows that a parent company is a labor rights violator, they may be unable to prevent the company from supplying an institution. The corporation can sell to a GFPP institution through a subsidiary without a record of labor violations. Either way, the parent company benefits.

Companies will often say that they can’t share their supply chain data because it’s proprietary information. However, through our experience in the garment industry, brands often know which factories others are producing in. Companies choose not to disclose supply chain information because transparency would force accountability for the standards and conditions their products are made.

HeeWon Brindle-Khym

Director of Research and Global Strategies,

Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union

Overt Corporate Resistance to Transparency

Corporations employ a number of tactics to keep their supply chains opaque. Those tactics generally follow two paths: overt conflict and covert resistance. The first path is outright opposition to calls for increased transparency. In this path, it is common for corporations to claim that they are unable to share supplier information because it would put them at a competitive disadvantage.[8]

Corporations using this tactic will insist that if they share their supplier lists, competitors could sneak in and take those suppliers away from them. The prevalence of price-fixing in the industry, however, indicates that large food companies view their competitors less as threats and more as co-conspirators.[i] In a recent case, the poultry industry paid over $50 million in settlements in the face of allegations that companies “agreed to share detailed data on [g]rower compensation with one another, with the purpose and effect of artificially depressing [g]rower compensation below competitive levels.”[ii] This argument also falls flat in many rural areas where large companies like Tyson don’t need to compete for suppliers: once they’ve established regional dominance, corporations effectively control local job markets. Supplier farms are often too scared to sign a contract with Tyson’s competitors because they could risk getting blacklisted from local opportunities.[iii]

The garment justice movement has battled this kind of overt corporate resistance for more than twenty years. In that time they’ve won major transparency and labor rights victories through organizing campaigns like the International Accord for Health and Safety in the Textile and Garment Industry (Bangladesh Accord), and the United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS).

[8] Whether this information is actually proprietary is debatable, and may vary depending on country or state. See: Knit KnitLLC v Unitrade Enters., Inc.

After years of concerted engagement and advocacy pressing apparel brands to divulge the names and addresses of their supplier factories, dozens of major companies now publicly disclose hundreds of contractors and subcontractors on their websites.

Liana Foxvog

Director of Supply Chain Strategies at the Worker Rights Consortium

(concerning Sweatfree Purchasing and publicly available databases that list brands and the factories they’re buying from)

These campaigns have garnered widespread support from institutional buyers and labor organizations to make the cost of supply chain secrecy outweigh its benefits. By pressuring corporations with economic and legal consequences for non-compliance, these campaigns have pushed industry giants like Nike and Levi Strauss & Co to disclose their supplier data and take greater responsibility for the working conditions within their supply chains.[i] If apparel brands can afford to share their factory names and addresses, food companies can and should do the same for their factories and farms when asked to do so by their institutional customers. 

When USAS first pushed Nike, the apparel maker resisted and sought to distance itself from suppliers.[ii] In the face of new transparency pressure many food corporations are following Nike’s old playbook. By claiming ignorance of the abuses their suppliers commit, companies make it harder to prove that they intended to cut costs by exploiting workers. In the last two years, both Nestlé and Cargill have used their convoluted supply chains to beat lawsuits alleging their complicity in child trafficking in the cacao industry.[iii] “The problem isn’t that [sourcing data] doesn’t exist,” said Anna Canning of the Worker-Driven Social Responsibility Network. “The problem is that corporations don’t disclose it.”

In recent years, numerous policy efforts around the world have aimed to force corporations to disclose their supplier data as a means of preventing abusive labor practices. Institutions can play an important role in promoting corporate transparency by requiring such disclosure in their food procurement policies.

If apparel brands can afford to share their factory names and addresses, food companies can and should do the same for their factories and farms when asked to do so by their institutional customers.

Covert Corporate Resistance to Transparency

With increasing demands for transparency, corporate executives are finding ways to co-opt those demands. Corporations engage in “covert” resistance to transparency by hiding behind meaningless certifications and employing toothless voluntary transparency models. Meanwhile, they lobby against transparency legislation that has the power to enforce mandates and consequences for non-compliance.

One way corporations and their interest groups co-opt transparency and regulatory initiatives is by volunteering to self-regulate via Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs.[9] Because CSR models are self-regulatory, they allow corporations to set the terms of their disclosure–disclosing what they want, controlling the auditing bodies, and facing little to no consequence for non-compliance. Charity Ryerson, Director of the Corporate Accountability Lab, calls this type of volunteerism a “trap door” for transparency campaigns: corporations will comply only to the minimum degree possible, claim ignorance of abuses on their watch, and use these models to boost their public relations.

[9] The same can be said of multi-stakeholder initiatives (MSIs), which are essentially CSR programs written in collaboration with NGOs and other organizations.

“Fairwashing” as Covert Corporate Tactic

Values-based food procurement has come to rely on certifications and labels making claims like “fair trade.” These certifications act as a shorthand for a range of values—a checkbox that is easy to apply to a product. But certifications often fail to protect workers’ rights due to several factors:

  • Flawed audits. Most ethical labels are based on certification standards plus annual audits to ensure compliance with those standards. Yet annual audits have a long history of failing to meaningfully protect workers and are easily manipulated, especially in the absence of strong worker organizations.[i]

  • Unequal power. Voluntary standards fail to address the overall imbalance of power that exists in supply chains and that remains the root cause of worker exploitation. They also fail to move money from the most resourced in supply chains (brands, especially those associated with multinational corporations) to workers.

  • Marketing rather than meaningful change. Research shows that one of the strongest steps that certifications could take to improve conditions for workers would be requiring living wages and collective bargaining agreements for workers.[ii] However, instead of setting conditions to support workers organizing, there is a track record of certifying brand suppliers during labor disputes, underscoring critiques that certifications benefit corporate marketing more than the workers they claim to protect.[iii]

  • Exclusion of workers. Certifications tend to leave out worker organizations at every step from standards setting to governance to enforcement.[iv] Instead of allying with workers and seeing them as natural partners, sharing data that could support their organizing, too often, worker organizations are treated as outsiders, or as yet another stakeholder – instead of central rights holders.

Overall, certifications fail to fully recognize buyers’ disproportionate power to set conditions in their supply chains, prioritizing a “checkbox” exercise over meaningful engagement with workers in supply chains.

Anna Canning

Communications Director at the Worker-Driven Social Responsibility Network

What Do We Need?

“I don’t give a shit if [the supply chains are] traceable.

Did you trace them, or did you not?

And did you release that information publicly?”

Charity Ryerson

Director and Founder of the Corporate Accountability Lab

Supply chain transparency is not an end goal, but rather a tool to build food worker and community power and to hold corporations accountable. To be truly transformative, a values-based procurement program will need each of these.

An effective enforcement body needs the authority and capacity to verify corporate suppliers are compliant with Good Food Purchasing Standards. This requires channels for reporting and investigating possible violations at every level of the supply chain. To ensure accountability, any auditing or enforcement body should be worker-led and must be accountable to an entity that is not the supplier. John Cartwright, former president of the Toronto Labour Council, explained that an auditing body should not answer to the direct purchaser either because “if there’s a violation, they don’t want to own up… so they sweep it under the rug.”

To ensure supplier compliance, corporations must face consequences for violations that outweigh the benefits of opacity and worker exploitation. For example, the International Accord for Health and Safety governing the garment and textile industry offers both market and legal consequences for violators. The Accord can force brands to cut ties with non-compliant factories and can take non-compliant brands to the international court of arbitration at the Hague.[xlvii] To effectively leverage institutional procurement market power, values-based procurement programs need the capacity to deny or revoke contracts with suppliers and bidders that violate standards. 

To effectively leverage institutional procurement market power, values-based procurement programs need the capacity to deny or revoke contracts with suppliers and bidders that violate standards.

Enforcing Values

There are models we can look to for guiding principles for enforcing values-based standards.

The Food Justice Certification program, and Worker-Driven Social Responsibility (WSR) programs—like the Fair Food Program and Milk with Dignity—ensure that food workers are the backbone of enforcement mechanisms. These initiatives provide models for how workers can set standards, have accessible violation complaint mechanisms, and run peer-to-peer trainings.

Some city procurement programs do have powerful data collection and enforcement mechanisms for upholding Fair and Prevailing Wage laws. Municipal policies in Cincinnati and Toronto, for example, require procurement contractors to regularly send payroll reports for all workers and subcontracted workers to a city-run enforcement body that is separate from (and not accountable to) the purchaser. The city can then use that data to suspend or permanently ban (in Toronto’s case) violating contractors. For these types of requirements to be effective for values-based procurement, they would also need to require that payroll reports be shared with the coalitions and the public.

For a deeper dive into these enforcement and transparency models, check out this research summary.

Protecting Workers and Their Right to Organize

Supplier transparency allows us to see where workers are being exploited and ultimately allows workers to more effectively leverage values-based purchasing as an organizing tool.

Despite limited access to supplier data, Good Food Communities has identified workers in several public supply chains whose employers are required to follow the Good Food Purchasing Program’s fair labor standards. We surveyed warehouse workers in Illinois and interviewed meat processing workers in Missouri—both of which are part of GFPP-covered supply chains—to understand if companies were protecting them in accordance with the minimum GFPP labor requirements. We also surveyed farmworkers in Florida, most of whom are not part of GFPP supply chains, to understand the conditions and needs of workers in areas where GFPP is expanding.We were particularly focused on two basic protections that, if enforced, would provide leverage for building worker power:

Respect for workers’ right to organize

Protections against workplace discrimination

Where We Stand

Warehouse Workers in Illinois

During the summer of 2022, Warehouse Workers for Justice (WWJ) surveyed 43 warehouse workers in the Chicagoland area whose employers are required to follow GFPP labor standards. Of the workers surveyed:

  • 55 percent said they couldn’t afford to consistently feed their families due to low wages.
  • 24 percent felt their employer did not respect their right to organize.
  • 74 percent did not have employer provided health insurance.
  • 21 percent felt their job was at risk if they called in sick to work.

Of the warehouse workers surveyed, 24 percent were temp workers. Employers tend to hire temp workers so they can cut costs by evading the protections guaranteed to full-time employees. WWJ’s surveys illustrate how that lack of protections affects temp workers’ day to day lives:

  • 60 percent said they couldn’t afford to consistently feed their families due to low wages.

  • 40 percent said their employers didn’t respect their right to organize.

  • 90 percent did not have employer provided health insurance.

  • 40 percent felt their job was at risk if they called in sick to work.



  • % that said they couldn’t afford to consistently feed their families due to low wages: 55% 55%
  • 60% 60%
  • % that felt their employer did not respect their right to organize: 24% 24%
  • 40% 40%
  • % that did not have employer provided health insurance: 74% 74%
  • 90% 90%
  • % that felt their job was at risk if they called in sick to work: 21% 21%
  • 40% 40%

Without the assurance of full-time employment, temp workers are especially vulnerable to wage theft, discrimination, and poor working conditions.[i] Mark Balentine, Warehouse Workers for Justice organizer and former warehouse worker shared:

When I worked for the temp agencies, I would see them do wage theft all the time, pit Black and brown workers against each other, and retaliate against anyone who would speak out about what was going on.


Temporary staffing agencies bring a certain kind of person to that job, mostly people with criminal backgrounds. The agencies know they can do a lot under the table right in front of their eyes. They know because of the position the worker is in with criminal backgrounds they are going to brush it off because they have to keep a job in order to stay free. For the staffing agency, if someone doesn’t work out, ‘fine’ they say, ‘get rid of them, find another.’ They know another worker with a criminal background will be around real soon. Food companies that use bad agencies like Elite Staffing and also benefit from the Good Food Purchasing Policy should be looked at. Are they really good food companies if they abuse the workers who move their product?

Of all the workers surveyed who have faced retaliation from their employer, 100 percent report no longer feeling comfortable voicing concerns in the workplace. Surveyed warehouse workers shared how employers intentionally shortened hours, required difficult tasks, and created strenuous schedules. Retaliation also came in the form of termination in some cases. Arthur Morgan, a former worker at Rich Products in Illinois, said: “We have no say so in anything involving our safety or our labor laws… If you [stand] up to fight for your rights, they [try] to figure out a way to get rid of you… I think I was terminated because I didn’t make myself available to fill in for someone else’s duties.” Another warehouse worker in Chicagoland shared, “After three years, I worked on every machine in that [warehouse], and they fired me after I got injured.”

These injustices are why worker organizations, unions, and other labor allies want to use public procurement dollars as leverage to support frontline food workers and their fight for better wages and working conditions.

Tommy Carden, lead organizer at Warehouse Workers for Justice, detailed workers’ attempt to employ this strategy in Chicagoland:

During the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic, workers from Mars Wrigley came to Warehouse Workers for Justice (a Chicago-based worker center) seeking support in demanding stronger COVID safety precautions and hazard pay in their workplace. After worker leaders delivered a petition to management, they were subsequently fired in retaliation for exercising their protected right to organize. Through months of organizing, workers ultimately won limited hazard pay from their employers at third party logistics agencies.


As we dug into the company’s public contracts, we realized GFPP could be leveraged through relationships with local public officials. Given that Mars Wrigley is one of the companies supplying institutions participating in GFPP, this could be one tool in workers’ tool belts as they organize for better working conditions. This will take a strong base of workers, significant support from elected officials, and other points of leverage to bolster workers’ ability to hold their bosses accountable.


WWJ has so far been unable to use values-based procurement as leverage due to lack of transparency in institutional supply chain data, including incomplete data sets. Lack of transparency doesn’t only apply to which companies are doing business with the relevant government, but also how much money is at stake, and the length and terms of those contracts–all critical factors to know when attempting to understand current supply chains. Additionally, it has been difficult to engage workers around GFPP when workers have not seen it used effectively as a tactic, it’s a complicated program to understand, and explaining how GFPP works can be convoluted.

When institutions adopt a Good Food Purchasing policy, as they have in Chicago, it should provide supply chain workers an opportunity to hold their corporate suppliers accountable. Policy adoption will not, however, benefit workers unless public institutions make their supply chains publicly transparent. Until then, food workers and worker organizations like WWJ won’t be fully equipped to use values-based procurement as an organizing strategy to improve wages and working conditions.


As GFPP expands its reach to new institutions, it expands its potential to protect workers in some of the least transparent sectors of the food system. In Gainesville, Florida, policymakers and procurement officials are beginning to embrace values-based procurement. This development is opening up an opportunity to build supply chain transparency and worker protections for a group that has little of either: farmworkers.

Basic worker protections like the right to organize are the foundation of GFPP labor standards. If enforced, these standards could be especially relevant to farmworkers, like those in Florida, who are not afforded the right to organize under federal or state laws.[1]

To show how critical such protections could be, Nezahualcoyotl Xiuhtecutli, General Coordinator at the Farmworker Association of Florida (FWAF) shared his analysis of farmworker exploitation in Florida:

Farmworkers are among the most vulnerable workers in the U.S. Most are immigrants and about two thirds are undocumented. The fear of deportation prevents many of them from reporting abuses and violations against their health and safety. Although DOL, OSHA, and EPA officials assert that complaints will not be reported to immigration authorities, farmworkers are wary of those assurances. Additionally, while their complaint may be confidential, it is not anonymous, and they worry about retaliation.

Unable and unwilling to share their negative work experiences, many farmworkers are left open to undue exposure to excessive heat and pesticides. In the heat, their bodies become dehydrated and can suffer kidney damage. Over time, they may develop chronic kidney disease and hypertension. These conditions are further worsened by field conditions such as lack of access to a bathroom, and agriculture’s reliance on the piece-rate system in which workers are paid based on the amount of harvest they pick. Under that system, farmworkers are essentially competing against themselves and against other workers. Every time they stop to get a drink of water or use the restroom, they see it as money they are not earning and the person next to them is picking and making what they would be making. When asked why they did not stop for a break, workers often cite working by the piece rate and wanting to make more money by continuing to work.

Another issue that farmworkers face is exposure to pesticides. The Worker Protection Standard regulates the use of pesticides and has a long list of requirements related to pesticide use. However, one of the more important areas of attention is the fact that pesticide labels are only printed in English, and not in Spanish too. In Florida, they should also be printed in Haitian Creole. Additionally, workers report that pesticides are being applied in adjacent fields where they are often exposed through pesticide drift, which occurs when the mist of pesticide application is carried in the wind and exposing workers in those adjacent fields. Workers often report finding a white dust on the plants following a field being sprayed with pesticides. This is essentially pesticide residue that settles on the leaves of plants. When workers walk in the fields, this residue gets on their clothes and skins. Skin rashes are common for farmworkers who have been working in a field recently sprayed.

What farmworkers need, according to Xiuhtecutli, is:

  • Abolishing the piece-rate system, which would go a long way to making sure workers give their bodies a chance to cool off.
  • Scheduled breaks and more access to water, which would help them feel more confident about drinking water.
  • Access to shaded areas for their breaks and bathrooms to help farmworkers feel more comfortable drinking water, knowing that they can stop to use the restroom when they need to.
  • More space between areas being sprayed.
  • More time between the time a field is sprayed and the time workers go back in the fields to work.
  • Access to Personal Protective Equipment, which would help workers better protect themselves against the short and long-term effects of pesticide exposure.

During the summer of 2022, while WWJ surveyed warehouse workers in Chicagoland, FWAF distributed the same survey to 40 farmworkers in central Florida. Ninety-five percent of those farmworkers are not working in GFPP-confirmed supply chains, but the data demonstrates sector and region specific barriers that inform GFC’s ongoing work. Alachua County (where Gainesville is located) and the local school district only recently began implementing GFPP and coalition members are just beginning to research Gainesville’s institutional supply chains. Farm level data is also the least transparent sector of food supply chains. Some of the farmworkers surveyed may in fact be in a GFPP-aligned supply chain, but without full transparency, we cannot know for sure.



  • % that said they couldn’t afford to consistently feed their families due to low wages: 58% 58%
  • % said performing their job put them at risk of harm: 30% 30%
  • % that had employer provided health insurance: 0% 0%
  • % said their employer did not respect their right to have a workplace free from retaliation: 28% 28%

Of the farmworkers surveyed:

  • 58 percent said they couldn’t afford to consistently feed their families due to low wages.
  • 30 percent said performing their job put them at risk of harm.
  • 0 percent had employer provided health insurance.
  • 28 percent said their employer did not respect their right to have a workplace free from retaliation.

As Xiuhtecutli mentions above, farmworkers are especially vulnerable to abuse. Compared to workers in other sectors of the food industry, they are less likely to speak English and more likely to be undocumented—and in the case of H-2A workers, more likely to have their US residence dependent upon work. This vulnerability means that even though they are more likely to suffer from poor working conditions, stolen wages, discrimination, and retaliatory abuse, they are less likely to voice their concerns over these issues.[xlix] Nonetheless, of all the workers surveyed, farmworkers were 50 percent more likely than warehouse workers to report retaliation for voicing workplace concerns to their employer. Thirty-seven percent of surveyed farmworkers listed health and safety concerns, citing dangerous working conditions, pesticide exposure, and dirty drinking water.[11]

These many workplace dangers highlight the need for better mechanisms through which farmworkers can organize. While GFPP standards offer the potential for such mechanisms, right now, without transparency, monitoring and enforcement, and consequences for violators, those protections do not exist. Yesica Ramirez, a FWAF organizer in the Apopka area, commented:

In this specific community of farmworkers who pick strawberries and chiles, we see Indigenous people [who are] more vulnerable to any kind of violation. [GFPP] would be spectacular for them, as they are doubly unprotected. But, the process is not short. If you hear about it once you don’t immediately understand the Program. While we organize with [farmworkers] and gain their trust, we’ll also have to use that time as an opportunity for them to learn more about this program—how they would benefit and how they can support it.

[11] Of that 37 percent, every single respondent said their employer respects their right to safe and healthy working conditions. This gap leads us to believe that fear of retaliation and normalized widespread abuse may be leading survey respondents to underreport violations.

Meat Processing Workers in Missouri

The Smithfield Foods processing plant in Milan, MO supplies public institutions across the country, including those in GFPP Supply chains. Although this plant is part of supply chains covered by the fair labor standards of the Good Food Purchasing Program (GFPP), these protections aren’t currently enforced and working conditions can be deadly. Brave workers shared what it’s like on the inside.[12] According to Fatima, “No amount of money can pay me for my health. I have urinary infections because of this job. I also have a lot of stress because of work. I developed tachycardia because of all the stress.” Katrina added, “We put our safety on the line and we come out with long-term injuries. I left with a messed up shoulder, with gout, and carpal tunnel. There’s no amount that they can pay us to be robots for them.”

Three interviewees—Consuelo, Katrina, and Fatima—worked for Smithfield as trimmers, skinners, and packers. María, the fourth interviewee, worked for Packers Sanitation Services Inc (PSSI), which Smithfield and other meat processing companies regularly contract to clean their facilities. Both employers have a record of worker exploitation—with more than 300 OSHA violations combined over the last decade. Still, that record only reflects a small fraction of the workers’ rights abuses these companies commit.[l] As María told us:

The chemicals they use are very harmful. My coworkers and I have chemical burns. We have problems with our lungs. I understand they want everything disinfected, but it’s killing us… If we didn’t finish cleaning the machines as we were supposed to, we got written a warning. If you got three warnings… you got suspended for three days. On the fourth warning, you got fired… Not being able to move the machines on my own was a big safety issue, because we had to make creative ways in trying to get our jobs done… They demand so much from us. They want us to be safe, but they are asking for us to go faster and faster. So workers have to take small shortcuts to get the work done. Then they blame the workers for having the accident.

Another anonymous worker added:

My [family member] and I work there… I’m giving you [a pseudonym] because I’m scared of what this company can do. Sometimes I want to use my real name, but I’m scared.

In our full case study, worker testimonies show how GFPP standards aren’t being upheld in the Milan plant and why coalitions and institutions need workers’ analysis. The case study also highlights an opportunity to hold suppliers to publicly-funded institutions accountable. As workers organize for better protections, there’s a critical role for allies outside their workplaces to amplify worker demands and exert pressure on companies like Smithfield to address them.

“No amount of money can pay me for my health. I have urinary infections because of this job. I developed tachycardia because of all the stress… We put our safety on the line and we come out with long-term injuries. I left with a messed up shoulder, with gout, and carpal tunnel. There’s no amount that they can pay us to be robots for them.”


[12] The Milan facility was identified based on aggregate data from the Center for Good Food Purchasing and talking with organizers on the ground.

Workers Outside the United States

Corporate exploitation of vulnerable workers in public food supply chains extends beyond the United States. This is especially true in the Global South, where free trade policies drive a “race to the bottom” when it comes to labor, environmental, and safety standards. Corporations like Nestlé cut their expenses by using forced, trafficked, or child labor. Because exploitation is so rampant, the Global South is often at the vanguard of organized resistance movements for worker protection and corporate accountability. Unions and worker organizations in Pakistan, for example, were leaders in expanding the protections of the Bangladesh Accord into the International Accord for Health and Safety in the Textile and Garment Industry. The international peasants’ organization La Vía Campesina (LVC) has spearheaded the food sovereignty movement to build (among other things) worker control, gender equity, and sustainability in the food system.[13] LVC’s work led to the United Nations’ adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas (UNDROP), which represents a breakthrough in potential legal protections for agricultural workers and communities around the world. As long as corporations can chase cheap labor from one country to the next, all efforts to secure worker protections and corporate accountability must consider the global scale of the problem. These and other Global South-based movements are important models we should learn from to secure justice and accountability in US food systems.

[13] The international small farmer, peasant, and rural worker confederation La Vía Campesina (LVC) coined the term “food sovereignty” in 1996 to counter the term “food security,” which LVC viewed as a trojan horse for trade and aid initiatives that destroyed rural livelihoods. Since 1996, the definition of food sovereignty has evolved and been debated continuously—for instance, growing from a focus on rural food producers to include the rights of food and farm workers, and the elimination of violence against women. At the core of all definitions, however, is a demand for the right of marginalized communities to control their food systems, food producing resources, and food culture—including what they eat, how it’s produced, who it benefits, and how it’s distributed. Within this report, our use of the term aims to honor the rich origins and history of food sovereignty rooted in the Global South definition, while acknowledging that US (especially BIPOC) groups have adopted and adapted this versatile concept to their own lived experience and demands.

What We’re Missing

Most Frontline Workers Don’t Know How GFPP Protects Them

Of the workers WWJ surveyed, only 21 percent knew of GFPP and only 7 percent knew they were in public supply chains covered by GFPP labor protections. Frontline workers must be made aware of what GFPP is, and be informed when they are employed by companies required to uphold the GFPP labor standards. With supplier transparency, worker organizations and partners can begin identifying workers covered by GFPP and informing those workers of what that GFPP coverage means for them. In the Program’s baseline labor standards, employers can be held accountable to following US labor laws and the International Labor Organization standards to ensure:

  • no forced or child labor;
  • no workplace discrimination (based on employment or occupation); and
  • protection of workers’ right to organize.

Labor Violations Don’t Tell the Full Story

Current values-based enforcement relies on violations filing systems that corporations can manipulate to diminish or erase evidence of worker exploitation. Corporations regularly settle informally with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to erase serious violations with heftier fines. Because OSHA lacks the capacity to prosecute most violations they find, they avoid litigation by offering informal settlements to violating companies. Minimizing violations is a matter of corporate policy and it’s cheaper to pay down federal violations than to ensure consistent worker safety. Case in point is Tyson Foods’ $127 million in an escrow account earmarked explicitly to pay for such settlements.[li] By settling violations up-front, they also dodge long-term market consequences in programs such as GFPP, which only keeps track of more serious violations. Furthermore, OSHA isn’t allowed to audit farms with fewer than ten workers and the vast majority (96 percent) of workers on animal agriculture operations don’t have access to OSHA protections.[lii] These factors make it difficult for institutions to hold suppliers accountable.

Workers’ perspectives, strategic analysis, and organizing become all the more valuable when corporations obfuscate safety data. Where other regulation fails, workers can provide critical insight on working conditions in supply chains. If they are ready to hear those insights, institutions can ensure that violators aren’t rewarded with new contracts. This type of collaboration has enforcement potential if it can build worker familiarity with—and confidence in—values-based procurement as an organizing strategy. It also supports solidarity among workers, coalitions, institutional partners, and policymakers.

Community and Worker Partnerships are Critical For Supplier Accountability

Of the 83 workers surveyed for this report, nearly everyone wanted their community and those outside their workplace to stand in solidarity with frontline workers and in defense of workers’ rights. These kinds of alliances can amplify workers’ collective power and increase pressure when organizing for better wages and conditions.

According to the survey results, workers are interested in two categories of support from allies:

1. sharing information on workers’ rights, relevant policies, and required health and safety protections; and
2. building broad support for strikes, walkouts, and unionization.

Holding suppliers accountable requires that we listen to those who know workplace conditions best: workers. Food workers aren’t just witnesses to labor abuses, they’re often familiar with the business practices concerning other GFPP value categories, such as animal welfare and environmental sustainability. When workers are connected to the broader GFPP network, their knowledge can help coalitions and institutions identify violations that wouldn’t otherwise be known. In order to use GFPP as an organizing tool, and to help enforce its standards, food workers need support from an engaged network of coalitions and public institutions that will connect the dots of the supply chain, lean on worker testimony and analysis when evaluating progress, and set up consequences for suppliers that violate workers’ human rights. By supporting workers in this way, we can increase transparency and improve enforcement for each of GFPP’s value categories.

Workers can provide critical insight on working conditions in supply chains. If they are ready to hear those insights, institutions can ensure that violators aren’t rewarded with new contracts.

Using the GFPP core values as a frame when talking to farmworkers allows us to raise awareness among our community about the need for a less extractive food system, to build understanding of the value of their labor, and the potential use of GFPP as leverage for collective bargaining.

Nezahualcoyotl Xiuhtecutli

General Coordinator, Farmworker Association of Florida

Good Food Communities campaign member

Building Support for BIPOC Producers and Distributors

As corporate consolidation leads to only a handful of companies controlling large portions of our food supply chains, small-scale farmers face anemic marketplace options.[14] Attempts to keep up leave many farmers stacked with debt and with fewer choices regarding what they grow and how they grow it.[liii] BIPOC farmers and businesses face additional challenges in securing financial support to start up or grow due to historical, political, and institutional discrimination.

The United States has passed racist policies ensuring that BIPOC communities, including producers and distributors, have less access to capital and land.[liv] [15] As a result, BIPOC communities face significantly higher food insecurity than White communities, because they have less wealth, less access to healthy, affordable food, and fewer resources with which to address those issues.[lv]

Addressing these inequities requires a shift in power in which BIPOC communities define and control their own food and agricultural systems. BIPOC producers and distributors, who for generations have been organizing in their communities, are fundamental to that shift in power. The HEAL Food Alliance argues:

For many that have been systematically left out of the food system and often borne the brunt of a food system that was designed to amass wealth through their oppression, growing food on their terms and ensuring the communities’ access to it, is in itself a radical political act. The majority of BIPOC producers today are politically motivated by the need to fight for a more equitable, and ecologically sound food system and reclaim their connections to the land that has been historically denied to them. They use their position as providers and their land access to create space for learning, healing and resisting.[lvi]

Supporting small-scale BIPOC producers’ and distributors’ entry into procurement markets helps to create a sustainable, values-based system by building food sovereignty. This section and the case studies that follow demonstrate: how BIPOC producers and distributors are tackling inequity within their own communities; and the potential for BIPOC communities who control their food systems to lead the movement to transform our current exploitative food system.

Over the last 100 years Black farmers have gone from operating 14 percent of farms in the United States to 1.7 percent today, losing nearly 90 percent of farmland over that same time.
[14] Households with smaller-scale family farm businesses typically earn negative income from their farm businesses, rely more heavily on off-farm income, and receive a smaller share of government direct payments since revenue support payments are based on a combination of historical and current production volume. See: Congressional Research Service, US Farm Income Outlook: 2021 Forecast.
[15] This has a multiplier effect when combined with a food system run by companies fixated on their profit margins. The capitalist demand for profit means food outlets follow the money, and cut corners if they don’t meet a desired margin. This affects BIPOC communities through food apartheids, depriving communities of access to healthy food. It also justifies retail practices like market segmentation, where grocery stores send low quality produce to low-income neighborhoods, because when there’s only one local grocery store, customers can’t choose to go to the store across the street if they don’t like what they see. 


“I told the USDA, I’m sick and tired of you calling us ‘disadvantaged.’ Why are we disadvantaged? Why don’t you ask that? We’re disadvantaged because our land was stolen, our water became a commodity bought and sold, [and] our seeds were contaminated. If we’re disadvantaged, it is for those reasons.”

Helga Garcia-Garza

Director of Agri-Cultura Co-operative Network

The United States and its food and agricultural systems are built upon land and labor stolen from Indigenous and Black communities over the course of the last 500 years.[16]

That legacy of brutality extends into the current agricultural system. The defining features of this system—its fixation on productivity, its dependence on chemical inputs, and its preference for giant farms—are founded upon policies that were intentionally crafted to socially disadvantage BIPOC producers. Estimates show that the USDA’s discriminatory policies have robbed Black farmers of more than $300 billion worth of land in the last century alone.[lvii] New Deal legislation like the Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA) and other policies shaped the current agricultural system by dismantling programs that aided small-scale Black farmers, while sending massive subsidies to large-scale White farm owners.[lviii] The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) was designed specifically to exclude BIPOC workers from labor protections.[17] Nearly 80 years of policies, from the Bracero Program, to NAFTA, to criminalizing immigration through policies like Operation Streamline have all worked to engender a food system that is dependent upon the exploitation of Latine labor.[18]

The consequences of these policies have been disastrous for BIPOC producers and our food system as a whole. Over the last 100 years Black farmers have gone from operating 14 percent of farms in the United States to 1.7 percent today, losing nearly 90 percent of farmland over that same time.

The USDA has continued to systematically deny Indigenous and Black farmers access to loans and protections that would allow them to build wealth and have a larger say in our food system.[lix] Meanwhile a select few corporations have grabbed ever growing control of the food system. These same corporations have wrested control of our public procurement supply chains and are deeply invested in maintaining that control.

[16] Within a century of gaining independence from Britain, the US government stole 1.5 billion acres of land from Indigenous people through war, attempted genocide, and discriminatory policy. Legislation like the Indian Removal Act of 1830 and the Homestead Act of 1862 authorized European settlers’ theft of Indigenous land, and sanctioned the violence required to steal it. Those who stole that land had it cultivated by people who were kidnapped from their homes in Africa and sold into forced labor for centuries. The profits reaped from this legacy of theft and violence catapulted the United States into its position as an economic and military superpower.
[17] “Nearly half of all Black men, Mexican-American Men, and Native American men and women, plus significant numbers of Asian American workers were excluded from Social Security, unemployment insurance, and the right to organize.” See: From Excluded to Essential.
[18] In this report we’re choosing to use the term Latine except in direct quotes or case studies where interview subjects specifically used the term Latinx or another term. We’ve made this decision in recognition that many consider Latine to be an easier to pronounce gender-neutral pronoun for Spanish speakers.


Over the course of 2022, and into the spring of 2023, authors conducted three case studies with BIPOC producers and distributors.

Dawn2Dusk and
Kilimo Minnesota

Multiple locations in Minnesota
An organic family farm owned and operated by immigrants from Kenya and a farmer incubator program for emerging farmers of African descent, respectively. Our primary contact for this case study was co-founder, Moses Momanyi.

Corbin Hill
Food Project

New York City
A BIPOC-led food aggregator and distributor working to create wealth and community control in Black, Latinx, and other marginalized communities. Our primary contact for this case study was founder Dennis Derryck.

Cooperative Network

Unincorporated South Valley of
Albuquerque, New Mexico
A farmer-owned cooperative that aggregates produce from farmers in New Mexico in order to serve low-income communities in the unincorporated South Valley of Albuquerque. Our primary contact for this case study was executive director Helga Garcia-Garza.
While conducting case studies for this report, interviewees identified a number of barriers to small-scale BIPOC producer and distributor access to procurement markets: exclusion from services and finance; exclusion from political and market connections; increased risk and supply chain disruption as a result of COVID-19; and diminished food sovereignty and local community control. These barriers are explored in greater detail below.

Exclusion from services and finance

Centuries of racist policies and discriminatory barriers to accessing land and capital have cut BIPOC farmers out of food and agricultural markets. Today, BIPOC people make up less than 5 percent of farm owners nationwide, while BIPOC people constitute a majority of farm workers overall and nearly 40 percent of the US population.[lx] As a result, BIPOC producers are less represented in institutions currently practicing values-based procurement and have difficulty accessing those institutional contracts.

Dennis Derryck, founder of Harlem-based Corbin Hill Food Project, explained that addressing this lack of representation in agriculture is “a huge long-term project that involves investment over the next 20 years or so.” Derryck further explained that New York State has 57,000 farms, but only 139 of them are Black-owned.[lxi] Despite actively looking, Corbin Hill has no consistent Black farmers in its supply chain.

Discriminatory lending and land ownership policies hold back more than 200,000 BIPOC producers operating in the United States, who work on smaller farms and make less money than the average farmer.[lxii] Scaling up to meet the requirements of procurement bids involves considerable risk for these producers and distributors.

Helga Garcia-Garza, director of the Albuquerque-based farmer-owned cooperative food aggregator, Agri-Cultura Cooperative Network (ACN), recounted, “I always say the farmer takes the biggest risk, because [they have] to invest months of work and capital before [they see] any type of income out of it.” BIPOC farmers are well aware of the barriers they face in accessing these markets: from certifications and infrastructural investments to in-club supplier pipelines and the legacy of racist agricultural policies that work against them.[lxiii]

Black-led Corbin Hill’s status as a virtual organization is a shrewd strategy to navigate the financial barriers they face. System-wide, Black-owned small businesses receive smaller loans and are rejected more often than their White-owned counterparts.[lxiv] Derryck explained: “When we started off, we were very successful. We went from 190 shareholders to 1,100 in three years, so then they started to gouge us.” The storage facility they initially rented suddenly increased the rent by 50 percent. The state offered them money to build a facility, but according to Derryck, “You don’t want to know the percentages of what we had to put up for every dollar we needed to borrow. It’s an embarrassment in terms of racism and capitalism.” By becoming a virtual organization, Corbin Hill eliminated its need for a storage facility, shifting that burden of infrastructure onto institutions and the White farmers they source from.

The price point that institutions set for their produce adds another barrier for small-scale BIPOC farmers. “The prices are just low!” shared Moses Momanyi, co-founder of Dawn2Dusk farm, in Afton, Minnesota. “They’re buying at 80-95 cents per lb., [when] a bunch of radishes at the farmers market is $3 [for roughly 1 lb.].” For many of these producers, institutions’ expectation for low wholesale prices is an immediate deal breaker. This is why, in the unincorporated South Valley of Albuquerque, the farmers who comprise ACN’s board of directors always set their own prices. Garcia-Garza explained the importance of setting this hard line for institutions:

They wanted all this, this, and this from us, and I said “Well, where’s your commitment to it? You’re putting this all on the farmer, but y’all have made no commitment.” They were saying, “We can pay [ACN’s set price], but we have to be assured that the price will come down once you start doing your wholesale.” I said to them, “We will never, ever sell our carrots for 32 cents a pound. That’s never, ever going to happen.” [It’s critical] for them to understand that, because they can’t let go of the Sysco [corporate] mindset.

For many farmers, the upside of institutional contracts is stability. It offers a guaranteed income, without the year-long hassle of marketing and driving back and forth from the farmers market. For small-scale BIPOC farmers, though, the barriers of entry into the market make an institutional guarantee a risky gamble, especially for a deal with a partner you may not trust. Institutions can work to gain the trust and buy-in from small-scale BIPOC farmers by building connections with farmers and lending support on the risky investments that farmers need to scale up.[lxv]

Exclusion from Political and Market Connections

Momanyi described the barriers he faced as an immigrant farmer who wanted to gain access to markets in his new country:

Most immigrants will come, they’ll end up in the cities… They have a language barrier, cultural barriers. So even the ones who think of doing farming, they can’t. My friends tell me the same stories that I had. You get in a car, and drive around the country, admiring the livestock, but “Who am I going to even talk to to do this?” That’s a system that is automatically not favoring you.

Discriminatory policy has advantaged White producers and distributors for generations, allowing them to build the capital, the capacity, and the connections needed to dominate each link in procurement supply chains. As the Good Food Communities concept paper notes:

Given the food system’s size and consolidated power, large food service companies are able to propose low-budget contracts that institutions often find too attractive to resist… This practice incentivizes food management companies’ use of large vendors and means that they often exclude vendors who are not able to pay rebates[19]—such as small farmers—from their lists of preferred vendors. Such rebates have been a topic of several public investigations and proposed legislation to discourage the practice.

In 2020, Garcia-Garza was appointed chair of New Mexico’s historically White and big-ag led Food and Agriculture Policy Council, where she saw firsthand the mechanisms that create racial inequity within procurement supply chains:

I asked for the data [for procurement contracts]. Who bought from whom? Who ends up with the contracts? The three privileged White farmers that already had a monopoly on everything because they “work with organic methods.” Well, so do all of us [ACN’s BIPOC producers], but because they had that longevity of farming, they also had the capital, the land, the resources, the labor, and they had their white skin privilege.

As Garcia-Garza and others at ACN worked to bring awareness to these structural advantages, they faced even more discrimination. “I get called ‘aggressive’ a lot,” recalled Jessica Swan, the community outreach specialist for ACN. Garcia-Garza explained how other council members tend to squirm in their seats when she enters the room: “I’ve got a reputation. They can’t push language through and it’s just going to be accepted.” Without that constant activism, she explained, “it would have been same old, same old.”

[19] Kick-backs from suppliers to food service management companies who continually source from them.

Increased risk and supply chain disruption as a result of COVID-19

When COVID-19 hit in 2020, Dawn2Dusk farm had just signed a contract with Minneapolis Public School District to deliver 400 lbs./week of radishes. When the school district cut its deliveries by more than 80 percent, the burden fell on Dawn2Dusk. Momanyi explains:

Most of what we were supposed to be delivering was for the summer program, and there were no kids… You write an invoice, it’s [only] $80… “We specifically grew this one watermelon radish for the school district that we couldn’t take there… When you’re told you need 400 lbs. of radishes for the next ten weeks, you’re actually buying those seeds ahead of time, and you’re setting aside a space for that [on the farm].

Worried that backing out of the contract would reflect poorly on Dawn2Dusk, Momanyi was stuck making long deliveries that barely covered the cost of gas.[20] Momanyi initially entered into this contract as a teaching experience for his farmer-training program, but he found, “the following year when I was expecting the farmers to say ‘let’s do it again,’ none of the farmers were interested.” While Momanyi understands the school system’s difficult situation, this experience made him and his trainees wary to attempt any similar contracts:

This would be one success story to do this and lock in that contract over the years. It would be known to the community that “See? They were able to get such a contract, they get that every year, they can count on that.” So this year that RFP was put out, but I felt that I’ll revisit that later when I know that we’re done with COVID.

In NYC, Derryck explained COVID’s impact on Corbin Hill’s farmshare program, which distributed food to low-income communities through sites at their local institutions: “Pre-COVID we had 19 sites. Overnight we went from 19 to three… [Those sites], our clinics, our hospitals, our schools, were the first to close and the last to open.”

[20] To a commercial wholesale supplier that he didn’t know, who was outsourced by the school system. This supplier would switch POs, delivery amounts, and dates at the last minute, while having unrealistic expectations of Momanyi, making the whole process burdensome for him and his trainees. 

Diminished Food Sovereignty and Local Community Control

Corbin Hill’s sites were replaced by what Derryck calls “the charity and free food industrial complex.” Derryck explains that COVID and its accompanied spike in food insecurity were met with “unprecedented federal and local funding… [which increased the] flow of free food into communities, mostly facilitated via infrastructure owned and operated by large charity organizations.”

This model threatens Corbin Hill and others like them because it re-channels surplus food, community services, and grant-money through a handful of food hubs that already have hundreds of millions of dollars in assets. Derryck explained:

We can’t compete with them… Every place I turn around in my community there’s free food. There is no sovereignty in it, you don’t have choices… so you walk around the corner from the delivery point, you find half of it thrown out onto the sidewalks. The inner bones of our community are being destroyed… our prediction is even a year from now farm stands are not even going to survive because you can get free food down the block… I believe [during the height of the pandemic, free food is] necessary, but it’s absolutely not sufficient. …Charity is never there to deal with structure. Charity is what’s given to you. You don’t have a say about it. There’s been no evaluation on [these programs] in terms of health outcomes, or in terms of the community in which they’re distributing the food, nothing.

Similar systems have been enacted in the South Valley of Albuquerque, New Mexico. ACN’s Swan refers to this model as “farm to food bank,” stating:

These people are coming into our neighborhoods telling us that we need help, and telling us that this is all we deserve to eat… that’s not what I want my elders eating, or anybody who’s considered “at risk”… and you’re putting small businesses out of business because you came in to “save the community.”

When COVID-19 hit the South Valley, food security shot up, and new food banks and other food assistance delivery programs came in seeking to “save the community.” Backed by funders looking to address rising hunger, these organizations rose to prominence without the type of community support they’d normally need to succeed in the area. But because they weren’t from the community, neither were their solutions. “They didn’t have to build it, or organize the farmers. They bought it, and now they want to sit here and talk about ‘community’… and ‘their farmers’… and lead the equity talk,” said Garcia-Garza.

This phenomenon mirrors another major threat to community control in the South Valley and elsewhere: gentrification. These organizations may have a lot of money and good intentions, but they haven’t taken the time to build relationships needed to gain the trust and support of the South Valley, so they have to import their solutions from elsewhere. Meanwhile, money and opportunities dry up for small organizations with strong ties to the community. Instead of “solving the problem,” these outsider organizations extract power and decision making from the community, reducing food sovereignty.

What do we need?

 People are quick to recommend “training” as a solution to issues faced in Black and brown communities, but training alone is insufficient. Give me access and I’ll train myself.


Founder of Corbin Hill Food Program

Addressing the structural barriers that prevent small-scale BIPOC producers and distributors from accessing procurement markets must be a central project of values-based food purchasing. Support that counters structural barriers and increases community control looks like:

Prioritizing business relationships with BIPOC producers and distributors with programs focused on equity and community leadership.

Incorporating BIPOC producer, distributor, and community leadership into the design and implementation of procurement and other supplier contracts, as well as in any programs aiming to increase access to those contracts.

Developing programs that build relationships among BIPOC producers, distributors, and the institutions’ procurement team.

Financial supports that bridge infrastructure gaps and show long-term commitment to the development of relationships.

Grassroots leaders like Momanyi, Derryck, and Garcia-Garza are leading the fight against the economic, social, and political exclusion facing BIPOC producers, distributors, and their communities. By investing in and supporting their work, institutions can create ripple effects that benefit their own communities and broaden equitable access.

BIPOC Producer and Distributor Case Studies

The following are abridged case studies of BIPOC producers and distributors addressing structural violence on the ground and in procurement markets. The full case studies can be accessed here.

You have to look at the bigger picture of what we’re really doing here. We’re growing sustainable food. We’re taking care of soil health. We’re dealing with our limited water… We’re dealing with climate change factors. We’re keeping the local food local so that none of that money leaves the state and it keeps going back to the farmer and the farmer keeps building capacity. We’re creating jobs. We’re going into value added. These are jobs in aggregation. The long-term is New Mexico becoming a sustainable food state.

Helga Garcia-Garza

Director of the Agri-Cultura Cooperative Network

// BIPOC Producer and Distributor Case Studies


Dawn2Dusk is an organic vegetable farm run by Moses and Lonah Momanyi, a husband and wife team who met in Minnesota in 2009 as recent Kenyan immigrants. They established Dawn2Dusk on the principles of sustainable farming practices and sharing space fairly. In 2020, they founded Kilimo Minnesota, an organic incubator for aspiring farmers of African descent. At Kilimo, which is Swahili for farming, The Momanyis provide a 3 – 5 year mentorship program that seeks to “empower emerging farmers of African descent, socially and economically through mentorship, farmland access navigation and community building.”

Momanyi explained that immigrants face numerous structural barriers to farming in the United States: “It’s very difficult. It took me seven years. I’m working with farmers to see if it can take them less than that.” As an incubator for the 40 farmer-trainees currently enrolled, Kilimo addresses the core barriers of access that its founders faced:

  • building a welcoming community to broaden employment opportunities for aspiring farmers;
  • working with aspiring farmers to acquire land to cultivate;
  • teaching classes in organic and sustainable practices; and
  • providing mentorship on accessing and selling in various markets.

The Momanyis provide trainees with hands-on guidance as they learn to apply their lessons in the real world. They aggregate produce from their own farm and what’s grown by their trainees. The farmer trainees sell that produce at farmers’ markets in Minneapolis and sell wholesale to food hubs like The Good Acre (each farmer getting their proportional cut). This method also gives trainees a source of revenue, experience working in different markets, and a record of sales that will eventually help them gain access to loans for future investments.

The Momanyis’ goal of easing the transition for new migrant farmers catalyzed their collaboration with the Minnesota school system in the Fall of 2019. The systemic barriers of access to institutional procurement markets, however, turned that collaboration into a difficult ordeal, making Momanyi and his farmer trainees wary of future institutional contracts.

// BIPOC Producer and Distributor Case Studies


Corbin Hill Food Project is a Harlem-based, BIPOC-led food aggregator and distributor working to create wealth and community control in Black, Latinx, and other marginalized communities. They source from local and regional food hubs and aggregators to serve fresh food to low-income communities of color in New York City through a subsidized shareholder CSA program. The majority of their current shareholders live in households 200 percent below the poverty level. Since opening 11 years ago, Corbin Hill has continually evolved their model to better meet their long-term vision of food sovereignty, racial equity, and community control.

The CSA program at Corbin Hill is divided in two: one part that’s open to everyone and a wholesale program that reaches target communities via institutions like clinics, hospitals, and schools. Corbin Hill supplies institutions through its model as an aggregator of aggregators, sourcing from food hubs throughout the Northeast, connecting a network of nearly 200 small and mid-sized farms. The institutions and hubs provide the infrastructure (trucking, distribution, and storage facilities). Operating as a virtual organization, Corbin Hill focuses on the supply chain logistics, technical assistance, and training needed to connect their farmers to the institutions.

For Corbin Hill’s Founder, Dennis Derryck, building food sovereignty, racial equity, and community control into procurement markets is about more than job creation or living wages, it’s about creating workplace structures that answer the question, “What does your retirement look like?”. That means supporting and investing in businesses with strong benefits and equitable distribution models for wealth and decision making, like Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPS). Investment in small-scale BIPOC businesses with these equitable structures is vital at every level of the supply chain, not just for farmers.

// BIPOC Producer and Distributor Case Studies


Agricultura Cooperative Network (ACN) is a farmer-owned cooperative that aggregates produce from farmers in New Mexico in order to serve low-income communities in the unincorporated South Valley of Albuquerque. ACN operates three main programs to address the core issues facing the South Valley:

Wholesale business: aggregating produce from five core South Valley farms (all cooperative-owners) and more than 50 other allied farms across New Mexico. ACN’s facility in the South Valley Economic Development Center stores, processes, packages, and distributes the aggregated produce to institutions that serve the South Valley and New Mexico.

La Cosecha CSA: a community engagement and nutritional education program, hosts cooking classes, cultural events, and provides subsidized and unsubsidized weekly food boxes to over 250 CSA members.

Grow the Growers: a farmer training program, includes a three year internship program; a business incubation program providing access to land, water, and technical assistance; and a program that helps farmers reach local markets and gain long-term access to land and water.

The South Valley communities that ACN serves have endured generations of racist policies, robbing them of their health and wealth. “People here don’t have access to healthy foods,” said ACN director Helga Garcia-Garza, explaining why her neighborhood has five liquor stores, but no grocery stores. “We don’t have it because we were denied it!” In the face of the South Valley’s disenfranchisement, Garcia-Garza added, “We’re blessed that we’ve been left on our own.” In response to neglect from the public and private sectors, the South Valley has learned to problem solve as a community. ACN’s community outreach specialist, Jessica Swan explained “Being able to call your doctor ‘cousin’ means you can call on the community in your darkest hours… In those times when you ask ‘who do I turn to?’, I know who I turn to.” The solidarity needed to combat structural violence is crucial to the way ACN designs its programs to effectively address the needs of the community.

The Road Ahead: Strategies & Recommendations

Gleaning Inspiration from Other Models

Coalitions are calling on public institutions to create real impacts for people and our planet in their food purchasing. Over the last decade, we’ve celebrated numerous victories. We’ve won policy adoptions, leveraged GFPP to win union contracts, and worked with institutions to prioritize community values in contracting. However, the amount of food purchased by institutions that meets Good Food Purchasing Standards remains a small slice of total purchasing.[21]

Despite our best efforts, workers are still being exploited, BIPOC farmers are excluded from institutional contracts, and the public often doesn’t know who’s supplying their local institutions. We have to go beyond the aspirations of GFPP to shift power to frontline workers, impacted communities, and small-scale BIPOC producers. That’s why the Good Food Communities campaign was launched: to protect workers’ human right to organize, build support for BIPOC producers, win supply chain transparency, and secure stronger environmental protections.[22] In order to do this, we need the following:


Mechanisms that equip institutions with tools to enforce the GFPP standards and create consequences for suppliers who are in violation.


Public access to food sourcing data illuminating the entire supply chain.


Institutions that treat coalition partners and frontline workers as core partners in program implementation.


New pathways that expand market access and ensure beneficial contracts for small-scale BIPOC producers and distributors.

As we strategize how best to achieve these goals, we look to our fellow organizers, workers, activists, researchers, community leaders, and institutional partners who have been pushing the envelope on values-based procurement for years. In particular, our research on enforcement, building consequences, and supplier transparency led us to review prevailing wage policies, Sweatfree purchasing campaigns, and worker-led certifications. Below is a summary, with the full version here, of our key findings:[lxvi]

Best Practices for Enforcement and Consequences

  • Entities responsible for enforcement are separate from those in charge of purchasing contracts.
  • Workers have access to an anonymous grievance process.
  • Labor violators in the supply chain face consequences.

Best Practices for Transparency

  • Workers in participating supply chains are informed of their rights.
  • Workers and community members are crucial to evaluating suppliers.
  • Supplier data detailing supply chain sourcing is made public.
[21] According to data from the Center for Good Food Purchasing on the 9 Bay Area GFPP institutions, one has 34.7% of its purchasing listed as “fair,” while the other 8 institutions average only 7.3% “fair.” See: Center for Good Food Purchasing, “Bay Area Good Food Purchasing Program Dashboard.”
[22] This is an iterative process and campaign that will continue to be refined and expanded. While environmental justice is interrelated to the following recommendations, we also recognize none explicitly focus on this priority area. We’ll continue exploring how environmental justice shows up in our work with intentionality.

Our local work to implement values-based food procurement is only possible with meaningful support from our state government. New York has some of the most restrictive procurement laws in the country, so we are keenly aware that lowest bidder requirements are incredibly prohibitive and do not create enough space for food purchasing to be democratized across municipalities. Eliminating lowest bidder requirements and lifting barriers to values-based food procurement allows municipalities to make decisions about their institutional food purchasing needs that are aligned with the values of the communities they are serving.

Ribka Getachew

Director of the NY Good Food Purchasing Program Campaign,
Community Food Advocates

Good Food Communities coalition member

I. Recommended Policies for Institutions and Legislators


    The following recommendations offer tools to: lift barriers to values-based purchasing; create institutional enforcement mechanisms with meaningful consequences for suppliers violating Good Food Purchasing Standards; and center community partners in decision making processes.

    01 // Removing Barriers to Values-based Purchasing

    Lowest responsible bidder mandates are prevalent across the country. These mandates prevent institutions from considering criteria other than cost. Values-based procurement seeks to consider additional factors when assessing prospective suppliers, such as bidders’ labor practices, treatment of farm animals, geographic location (relative to the institution), and land stewardship. In addition to good food policies, further legislative change may be needed to ensure that institutions aren’t required to default to the lowest bidder. Defining and passing best value procurement codes enables local communities and institutions to explicitly define the values that guide their food purchasing.


    Eliminate lowest responsible bidder mandate and replace it with best value procurement codes.

    01 // STRATEGY

    Explore which policy governs procurement for the respective area and what it would take to change it. This will look different depending on the geographic location.

    In order to practice values-based procurement at the New York City level, coalition members learned that state policy must be amended. In collaboration with senate partners, the coalition drafted legislation that provides a set of values with defined criteria for evaluating prospective vendors while offering a 10 percent price carveout for suppliers who meet the values-based criteria. This would mean that a supplier with a union contract or a local BIPOC producer could charge up to 10 percent more for their goods and still be considered an equal competitor to the “lowest cost bidder.”

    Coalition members in Gainesville encountered similar constraints in University of Florida’s Invitation To Negotiate that was seeking suppliers whose “price [did] not exceed local community or national brand pricing (market based comparison twice/year).”[lxvii] As in New York, this bidding process was based solely on cost rather than the public good.

    02 // Redefining What It Means to Be a Responsible Supplier 

    The term “responsible bidder” implies that the supplier sources its food responsibly. In practice, it means little more than the supplier being capable of supplying the foods requested. This ignores, for instance, how the food was grown or how workers and animals in the supply chain were treated.


    Pass a responsible bidder policy that defines what makes a bidder responsible beyond their ability to provide the goods or services requested by the institution.

    02 // STRATEGY

    Pass a responsible bidder policy that redefines what being a “responsible bidder” means. For example, a bidder would not be considered responsible if found to be violating labor laws or if they were unwilling to share the source of their products.

    The City of Los Angeles passed its version of responsible bidder policy in 2000. To determine contract responsibility, bidders are required to submit their answers to a questionnaire detailing labor law compliance, expertise, and integrity of suppliers and contractors. The questionnaire is signed by the bidder under penalty of perjury and is made publicly available.[lxviii]

    03 // Creating Consequences for Suppliers

    Labor violators in institutional supply chains must face consequences in order to be motivated to comply with values-based purchasing.


    Ensure that institutions and local jurisdictions reserve the right to: reject any bids or proposals, and bar bidders and contractors when they or their subcontractors violate GFPP standards.

    03A // STRATEGY

    Write these consequences into a binding policy, charter, code of conduct or similar governing legislation.

    The LA Unified School District’s contractor code of conduct granted it the right to reject any bid, proposal, or contract, and to impose other sanctions against contractors who failed to comply with district policies and requirements.[lxix] This code of conduct was used as leverage when the LA coalition organized to block low-road employers from institutional food contracts. Potential sanctions include:

    • the removal of the offending contractor or subcontractor;
    • the implementation of a corrective action plan approved by LAUSD;
    • the submission of a training plan for preventing future violations;
    • probation for 1 – 3 years;
    • the termination of a contract;
    • suspension from all LAUSD contracting for a period of time; and
    • debarment from all LAUSD procurement or contracting.

    Institutions reserving this right should consider developing an escalatory procedure with tiered consequences through which they will suspend or bar non-compliant contractors. To accomplish this, institutions can:

    • design escalatory procedures in collaboration with local coalition partners and/or the local community advisory council (see below for more on community advisory councils);
    • require immediate suspension for egregious violators;[23] and
    • define processes for corrective action, remediation by violating suppliers, and the timeframe for each.

    The Toronto Fair Wage Policy gives city agencies the power to temporarily or permanently disqualify companies that violate its standards from current and future city procurement contracts.[lxx] This process escalates according to a set protocol:

    • If a contractor or subcontractor violates the standards twice over the course of three years, the Fair Wage Office reports them and can recommend a two-year suspension from procurement contracts.
    • After the two year suspension, the company has a one year probation period.
    • If the company violates the standards again, they are subject to indefinite disqualification from city procurement contracts.

    The Toronto Fair Wage policy also allows the city to fine companies that fail to pay fair wages. The fine can be up to 15 percent of the procurement contract balance. That money goes to back-wages for workers who were denied fair wages. All suspended and banned contractors are publicly listed on the city’s website.

    [23] Egregious violators are those committing serious, willful, and/or repeated violations as defined by state and federal agencies. For labor violations, this includes employers with a track record of union busting, wage theft, or health and safety violations.


     Ensure food service management companies cannot profit from kickbacks.

    03b // STRATEGY

    Pass a rule that ensures kickbacks benefit the institution. Food Service Management Companies (FSMCs) receive rebates from their suppliers in exchange for exclusive contracts or large volume purchasing. This extra revenue allows them to further dominate public procurement markets. By restricting their ability to receive kickbacks, policymakers and institutions can increase FSMCs’ cost of doing business and open the door for more ethical suppliers to access procurement markets.
    Public K-12 schools already have a mechanism through which to do this. In 2007, the US Department of Agriculture passed a rule for procurement contracts with K-12 schools. The rule prohibits FSMCs from charging a K-12 school full price for any goods that the FSMC received a kickback on resulting from their contract. If the K-12 school already paid full price for such goods, the FSMC must reimburse them.
    Institutions can take advantage of this mechanism and the precedent it sets by doing the following:
    • Public K-12 school systems could audit their contracts and invoices to make sure that any kickbacks received by an FSMC in its supply chain are passed along to the schools.
    • Non-K-12 institutions could include requirements (adapting the template language below) in Requests For Proposals for FSMCs to pay their kickbacks directly to the institutions. In Requests For Information, they could require FSMCs to document and share the kickbacks they receive from corporate vendors.
    • Upon receiving invoices detailing FSMC discounts, rebates, or credits provided, institutional meal program administrators could post that information in full to an online directory open to the public, to the degree that this is legally permissible.
    • Policymakers can explore rules that would extend these regulations beyond K-12 to all public procurement contracts at the federal and state level.
    The long-term goal, however, should be to ban kickbacks altogether.[24]
    [24] The long-term goal should be to ban kickbacks altogether. Since FSMCs supply private industry as well, it may be possible for suppliers to funnel their kickback to FSMCs through those less regulated supply chains. In general, transparency on FSMC kickbacks is low; increased transparency would build capacity to enforce kickback restrictions or bans. Additionally, some of the legal battles using this rule have been based on the argument that kickbacks deprived schools of the lowest price available. Policymakers should thus prioritize any legislation that could ban kickbacks outright and, if any limited kickback regulation seems possible, consult local or regional grassroots coalitions to ensure these efforts are not counterproductive to the elimination of lowest bidder mandates.

    The 2007 rule added to the Code of Federal Regulations on Procurement Cost Reimbursable Contracts states:

    Allowable costs will be paid from the nonprofit school food service account to the contractor [Schools must pay FSMCs for contracted goods] net of [with the exception of] all discounts, rebates and other applicable credits [kickbacks] accruing to or received by the contractor or any assignee under the contract, to the extent those credits are allocable to the allowable portion of the costs billed to the school food authority.[lxxi]

    This rule also states that any such kickbacks are documented by the FSMC and shared with the “school food authority” on any bills or invoices. Since passing this rule, school systems have won tens of millions of dollars from FSMCs through legal battles after finding that FSMCs were not following the regulation.[lxxii] While not all school authorities will have the resources to audit their invoices, this could be a potential source of income for resource-strapped schools who are contracting with FSMCs.

    04 // Building a Community Advisory Council to Enforce Values-Based Procurement

    Without an organized base of community support, the burden of accountability and enforcement falls on institutional food program administrators who may not have the capacity necessary to track, manage, and deliver on GFPP implementation. Institutions can center grassroots leadership and decision-making power by establishing a community advisory council. A community advisory council would ideally enforce GFPP standards autonomously from institutional procurement teams and report directly to the governing bodies of their institution.[25] To ensure equitable access and participation, we recommend councils be BIPOC-led, reflect the communities served by the institution, have deep knowledge of all GFPP values, and provide food and childcare to all members as needed.

    [25] Community advisory councils could also act as hubs to coordinate existing grassroots organizing, reinforcing supplier accountability and assisting in building champions among elected officials.


    Establish a community advisory council in charge of enforcement and supplier compliance.

    04 // STRATEGY

    Pass policy that creates authority for a community advisory council, or a similar pre-existing community-based committee, and mandates that the council enforce the GFPP Standards in the following ways:
    • Inform bid evaluations by accessing the sourcing data of bidders and prospective suppliers to determine if they’re in violation. Collaborate with coalition partners, frontline food workers, small-scale farmers, and advocates to inform bid evaluations by sharing recommendations or grievances regarding current or prospective suppliers.
    • Disqualify suppliers who are in violation of the Standards and cancel contracts or block bids (depending on where they were in the process). Timelines and protocols for contract cancellations would need to be determined and publicly posted. Note that community control over contracting is ideal, but will depend on community leverage over city structures.
    • Evaluate and propose improvements to the bidding process by accessing all past bids submitted to public food procurement agencies.
    • Contribute to a Good Food Suppliers List that identifies suppliers who meet GFPP Standards and provide purchasing guidance to institutions’ food program administrators to meet their goals.
    We recommend establishing guidelines regarding the process and timeline by which the council assesses supplier and bidder compliance. Such guidelines could include:
    • working in close partnership with participating institutions in accessing supply chain data;
    • working in close partnership with coalition members, grassroots and worker organizations, and others rooted in local food systems efforts to inform compliance assessments through annual public hearings and other public gatherings; and
    • reporting back to, and collecting feedback from, served communities at public hearings on supplier compliance, recommendations, and progress made to date.

    In 2019, the Boston GFPP Ordinance created a community advisory council and defined its role as reviewing, evaluating, and making recommendations to best achieve values-based supply chains. To ensure transparency, the ordinance calls for city departments and agencies to publicly share bidder evaluations and proposal recommendations 30 days prior to holding a public hearing for comment. Another public hearing must be hosted within 60 days of final approval of proposals.[lxxiii] This code of conduct was used as leverage when the LA coalition organized to block low-road employers from institutional food contracts. Potential sanctions include:

    • the removal of the offending contractor or subcontractor;
    • the implementation of a corrective action plan approved by LAUSD;
    • the submission of a training plan for preventing future violations;
    • probation for 1 – 3 years;
    • the termination of a contract;
    • suspension from all LAUSD contracting for a period of time; and
    • debarment from all LAUSD procurement or contracting.

      Supply Chain Transparency

      We must build supply chains that are truly transparent to institutions, workers, and the public.

      05 // creating Transparency


      Require bidders to provide all sourcing data in bids and require contracted suppliers to update their sourcing data annually and upon changes.

      05 // STRATEGY

      Require bidders and suppliers to share their sourcing data. This includes institutions requiring the disclosure of any subcontractors and tracing all menu items from the institution to the farm of origin and the addresses of all workplaces in between. Enshrining this requirement in legislation further ensures it will become a consistent and long-term practice. The next steps after legislation are for the institution’s procurement team to communicate the requirement to the suppliers in solicitations and contracts and assess bidders’ ability to share sourcing data. Data-sharing should be one of the variables institutions use to determine whether a bidder is responsive/responsible.

      There are a number of examples from non-food sectors that can help guide our efforts. Sweatfree procurement policies have been adopted by seven states, 45 cities, and 16 counties across the United States to date. Nearly all of these require vendors to list names and addresses of all factories in their supply chains. The Sweatfree campaign has also released a model policy, which provides a roadmap for institutions dealing with non-compliant vendors.[lxxiv]


      In 2021, the Cook County (IL) Department of Corrections began including sourcing data requirements in their Request for Proposal.[lxxv] This language is the basis for the County’s contract with the awarded bidder.

      The department also partnered with the Cook County Department of Public Health, which supports coordination of GFPP across all county departments and agencies. As part of the bid evaluation process, public health partners participated as subject matter experts to advise the Cook County Department of Corrections on the ability of each bidder to meet GFPP goals as well as the bidders’ willingness and ability to share sourcing data. In order for bids to be considered complete, a sample of itemized purchasing data needed to be included by each bidder in their submission. The companies that provided sourcing information were evaluated more favorably by the Good Food Purchasing Standards.


      Due to the low prices typically offered in procurement contracts and the history of discriminatory procurement practices, small-scale BIPOC farmers may understandably be reluctant to trust or sell food to institutions. In order to attract BIPOC vendors and increase their capacity to meet institutional purchasing requirements, investments are necessary to build infrastructure for small-scale producers and distributors of color.

      06 // Address Infrastructure Gaps to Build BIPOC Access to Procurement Markets


      Create incentives for small-scale BIPOC producers and distributors that support infrastructure investments.

      06 // STRATEGY

      Promote municipal and state-based investments and programs that address infrastructure gaps for producers and distributors to offset low purchasing price points and risks involved in large contracts. This could include funding and logistics assistance for:
        • apprenticeship and training programs,
        • logistical and technical needs,
        • access to technology and the internet,
        • access to quality land and water,
        • crop insurance,
        • hoop houses or other physical infrastructure
        • trucking and refrigeration
        • packaging
        • processing, and
        • storage and warehousing

        Develop plans in partnership with local coalition partners and small-scale BIPOC producers and distributors to lift barriers in food contracting by providing:

        • subsidies of produce to offset low wholesale price points typically paid by institutions;
        • access to financial assistance to acquire certifications needed to supply the institution; and
        • access to proposal writing support for procurement contracts.

        It is also important to provide financial protections to small-scale BIPOC producers selling to institutions if the institution breaks a contract.


      In support of building infrastructure for mid-size and small-scale farms, including BIPOC-owned and operated farms, the Food Justice League of Gainesville recommended to the University of Florida (UF) that it require its contracted food service management company to commit a investing a certain percentage of contract profits each year “to reduce barriers to local farms, ranchers, and suppliers being able to sell to UF food services with input from the small and mid-sized family and/or cooperatively-owned farms local farms, ranchers, fisherpeople, processors, and vendors.”[lxxvi] This is an example of how public institutions can generate a sustainable funding stream in support of needed infrastructure for building equitable supply chains.

      II. Recommended Strategies to Clean Up Procurement Supply Chains

        01 // Public Access to Supply Chain Data and Annual Reports

        Requiring suppliers to share their sourcing data tracing all the way back to the farm-level (including subcontractors) better informs program implementation. The absence of sourcing data impedes successful partnerships with community leaders, grassroots organizers, frontline workers, and policy advocates.

        01 // RECOMMENDATION

        Make raw and aggregate supply chain data, as well as annual supply chain reporting, publicly available online.

        01 // STRATEGY

        Institutional meal program administrators should make supply chain data—including annual reporting of current food contracts and suppliers, contract values, assessments, and labor violations—publicly available in order to enhance community and worker involvement in implementation.

        Public-facing databases are an effective way to share supply chain data. In NYC, GFPP coalition members advocated for and worked closely with the Mayor’s Office of Food Policy (MOFP) to publicly share data from agencies participating in GFPP as a central component to informed partnerships. In 2021, MOFP began posting raw supplier data, supply chain analysis reports, and three-year action plans on the city’s website.

        In 2022, public institutions across the Bay Area of California partnered with local coalition partners and the Center for Good Food Purchasing to build the Bay Area Good Food Purchasing Program Dashboard that provides an aggregated list of all current suppliers and which of their products contribute to the institutions’ values-based purchasing.[lxxvii]

        In the apparel industry, thanks to the ongoing efforts of campaigns like the United Students Against Sweatshops, major clothing brands now report on the factories in which their products are made. The Workers Rights Consortium’s Factory Database lists which factories supply participating universities, while the Open Apparel Registry posts factory addresses.

          02 // Canceling Contracts with Violating Suppliers

          02 // RECOMMENDATION

          Institutions should penalize violating suppliers by cutting their contracts.

          02 // STRATEGY

          Institutions can create consequences for violating suppliers by reserving the right to reject any bids or proposals and bar contractors when a contractor or bidder is in violation of the Good Food Purchasing Standards. This means solicitations and contracts would need to include the following stipulations:
          • Bidders and their suppliers must share their sourcing data in order for an institution’s procurement team to determine if they are responsible bidders.
          • Suppliers agree to comply with and ensure companies in their supply chain comply with international and domestic labor laws.
          • If/when suppliers are out of compliance, the institution has a right to refuse a bid or contract and/or terminate a contract.
          This also requires institutions’ food program administrators to establish clear communication channels with local coalition members and community advisory councils to keep partners informed of reported violations and work in collaboration to identify noncompliance.


            Roughly 90 percent of the supply chain workers we surveyed were unaware of being covered by GFPP’s labor protections. Workers must be informed when they’re in good food supply chains. Institutions implementing GFPP are in a unique position to require that their suppliers inform workers of their rights and the protections afforded them by the GFPP labor standards.

            03 // RECOMMENDATION

            Require that suppliers inform workers in good food supply chains of their rights.

            03 // STRATEGY

            Partner with the Center for Good Food Purchasing and coalition partners to develop a dissemination plan as well as educational materials that outline:
            • Workers’ human rights to freedom of association, to organize, and to collectively bargain for better wages, benefits, and working conditions free from reprisal (as recognized by international, US, state, and local laws).
            • What protections are afforded via implementation of GFPP labor standards.
            • Contact information of local worker justice organizations that can provide support when workers’ rights have been threatened.
            • How workers can connect to community-based occupational safety and health training.
            For best results, post all materials at worksites in workers’ native languages and review with workers as an annual in-person training hosted by a local worker organization (such as a worker center or union).

              04 // SUPPORTING Small-Scale BIPOC Producers and Distributors

              04 // RECOMMENDATION

              Build buy-in for values-based procurement among local institutions with food purchasing power.

              04 // STRATEGY

              A key step for institutions committed to investing in small-scale BIPOC producers and distributors is aligning their food purchasing with racial justice. In partnership with local coalition partners, this process starts with relationship-building among institutional partners and:
              • small-scale BIPOC producers and distributors;
              • local food policy councils; and
              • other institutions that are already values-aligned and invested in this work.
              One tool for both increasing institutional buy-in and building these critical relationships is holding educational sessions for institutional food directors and their teams on the:
              • benefits of values-based purchasing for both institutions and local communities;
              • opportunities for building capacity to develop values-aligned contracting practices and evaluating suppliers accordingly;
              • responsibility to support small-scale BIPOC producers and distributors; and
              • models and approaches for how this is being done by other public institutions.
              Tying these educational sessions to other programs like Edible Education, Farm to School, or Food as Medicine may also be useful. As always, consulting with and prioritizing the analysis of local grassroots coalitions can help institutions and their food program administrators determine the best and most sustainable way forward.


                Institutional procurement contracts, for both food and food services, can be critical tools for institutions’ meal program administrators to communicate their core values, topline goals, and bottomline expectations to suppliers.

                05 // RECOMMENDATION

                Standardize contract language that clarifies good food purchasing goals and values.

                05 // STRATEGY

                By developing an internal policy for standard contract language, an institution can clarify what it means to be committed to valued-based purchasing and what’s needed from the supplier to ensure institutional goals are met. Standardized language can include:
                • defining food items in a way that is values-specific (example: “fruit cup” vs “fruit cup made with local fruit” or “meal” vs. “meal consisting of one local item”);
                • requiring suppliers share their sourcing data, including disclosure of subcontractors and tracing all menu items from the institution to the farm of origin and the addresses of all workplaces in between;
                • clarifying the mandate to meet baseline GFPP standards for all suppliers; and
                • breaking down the final purchased unit from a “meal” into components of that are packaged together (example: “meal” vs. “8 oz milk container, local hand fruit, 4 oz portion of local vegetable [cooked or raw], 4 oz portion of animal welfare certified meat, 8 oz portion of grain, and a dessert with less than 200 calories per serving.”)

                III. Recommended Practices for Suppliers and Food Service Management Companies


                  Institutional procurement contracts, for both food and food services, can be critical tools for institutions’ meal program administrators to communicate their core values, topline goals, and bottomline expectations to suppliers.

                  01A // RECOMMENDATION

                  Invest in small-scale BIPOC producers and distributors

                  01A // STRATEGY

                  Source from BIPOC producers and distributors who have strong community-based relationships; purchase from aggregators and food hubs that are led by community members and who prioritize community leadership in their programs; and prioritize organizations:
                  • with business models that distribute decision-making power and wealth equitably among their employees; and
                  • that work to address discrimination, poverty, and hunger by working with and supporting grassroots community leadership.
                  Suppliers should prioritize small-scale BIPOC producer and distributor decision-making and preferences regarding the wholesale pricing and the producers, processors, aggregators, and distributors with whom they work directly.
                  LOCAL PRACTICE

                  As an aggregator, Agri-Cultura Cooperative Network (ACN) in Albuquerque, New Mexico, often negotiates with institutional buyers. Because ACN is a farmer-cooperative, their board is composed of their farmer network and they set the terms of those negotiations. This way, ACN ensures that farmers set prices in all contracts with institutions.

                  Suppliers can identify and build relationships with these producers and distributors by centering the leadership of local coalition members who often have connections to frontline communities. These leaders can also help to define “local” in a way that builds food sovereignty in low-income and BIPOC communities in the area.

                  These investments will require suppliers to dedicate the time needed to cultivate meaningful relationships. Suppliers can increase their structural capacity for this by, for example, designating a company liaison.

                  02 // RECOMMENDATION

                  Make public supply chains transparent and suppliers publicly accountable.

                  02 // STRATEGY

                  All suppliers and food service management companies must make their supply chains transparent so that institutions can guarantee that the food they serve follows Good Food Purchasing Standards. To do this, share all sourcing data tracing back to the farm-level with the institutions served. Meeting these standards means:
                  • Committing to clear and swift timelines for tracking and sharing all sourcing data, including disclosure of subcontractors, tracing all menu items from the institution to the farm of origin and the addresses of all workplaces in between.
                  • Communicating transparency requirements to all suppliers and ensuring compliance at all levels of the supply chain.
                  • Updating all sourcing data annually and upon changes.

                  03 // RECOMMENDATION

                  Inform workers in public supply chains of their rights.

                  03 // STRATEGY

                  Suppliers should inform their employees and independent contractors of workers’ rights as part of their commitment to GFPP and to help institutions reach their values-based purchasing goals. This would include:
                  • Workers having access to educational materials at their workplace pertaining to their rights to freedom of association, to organize, and to bargain collectively for better wages, benefits and working conditions free from reprisal. Materials would include those developed by the Center for Good Food Purchasing and grassroots coalition partners that communicate protections covered by the GFPP labor standards.
                  • Workers having access to local worker justice organizations or government enforcement agencies as a mechanism for support and remedy when rights are violated.


                  Our global food system is designed to extract resources and labor from vulnerable communities in the name of profit. Billions of tax dollars are spent every year on procurement contracts that uphold this system, benefiting corporations that restrict processing plant workers’ access to bathrooms, give dirty water to fieldworkers, and squeeze local BIPOC producers out of their own markets.

                  The sheer amount of money spent on public food procurement presents a major opportunity to leverage our buying power to transform the food system. This report has demonstrated that there is widespread support and momentum for values-based purchasing—if only we listened to the voices of those most impacted by food system injustices and followed their leadership.

                  Here’s what we know we need:


                  Coalition partners and frontline workers upheld by institutions as core partners in program implementation.
                  • Companies have a long track record of resisting accountability. Our success depends upon strong collaboration among grassroots coalitions, public institutions, and policymakers. We also have a collective responsibility to frontline workers and communities most impacted. Workers need broad support to hold suppliers accountable to protecting their rights in the workplace.



                  Mechanisms that equip institutions with tools to enforce the Good Food Purchasing Standards and create consequences for suppliers who are in violation.
                  • We need to pass policies that lift barriers to values-based procurement, redefine responsible bidding, create escalating consequences like cutting contracts, and create community advisory councils that can support enforcement.


                  Public access to food sourcing data illuminating the entire supply chain.
                  • Full transparency is critical at every level of the supply chain. Suppliers must be required to share their data, ensure public access to that data, and inform workers when they’re covered by GFPP fair labor standards. The more transparent supply chains are, the fewer opportunities there will be for companies to exploit workers and communities without repercussions.

                  RACIAL EQUITY

                  New pathways that expand market access and ensure beneficial contracts for small-scale BIPOC producers and distributors.
                  • We need infrastructure for alternative suppliers who treat their workers with dignity and care for the planet. Grassroots leaders like Helga Garcia-Garza, Dennis Derryck, and Moses Momanyi have built alternative means of producing food and distributing it to their communities—in a way that builds community health and power. We can invest in infrastructure that supports and expands public contracting access for BIPOC producers and distributors like these grassroots leaders.

                  A strong, dynamic foundation for achieving these goals has been laid over the last decade. Values-based procurement can be a tool to transform our public supply chains: protecting workers’ human right to organize, building support for BIPOC producers, and increasing supplier transparency. Using the Good Food Purchasing Program as a strategic tool will require deepened institutional engagement, partnerships with workers and BIPOC producers, and resources for grassroots coalitions. The recommendations put forth in this report can help guide this transformative work while principles of accountability, transparency, enforcement, and racial equity must be guideposts for the road ahead.


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