Program to Buy Local from Region’s Farmers, Food Producers Approved by Board

News Date

A plan championed by Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer to move the County of San Diego – one of the region’s largest food buyers – toward cultivating, purchasing, and serving local food took another step forward today.

The County Board of Supervisors voted on Tuesday unanimously to move forward with the Sustainable, Equitable, and Local Food Sourcing Program, a landmark proposal that will invest in local food sources — and give a leg up to San Diego food producers, workers, and businesses. 

“Supporting local food providers and farmers helps to fight climate change and provide our families access to healthier food,” said Supervisor Lawson-Remer, Vice Chair of the Board of Supervisors. “Purchasing nutritious, sustainably produced food from local farmers can help shrink harmful carbon emissions, and decrease healthcare costs caused by poor nutrition.” 

The County of San Diego served approximately eight million meals at a cost of approximately $27 million to vulnerable populations in 2022, including youth, foster youth, adults in public hospitals and detention facilities, older adults, and individuals living with HIV/AIDS. 

As of March 2023, nearly one in four San Diegans experience food insecurity according to the San Diego Hunger Coalition. 

The Board voted to adopt the Sustainable, Equitable, and Local Food Sourcing Policy, direct staff to implement year-two of the program and return to the Board with an update on progress and impacts by Spring of 2025, and authorize applications for additional funding for the program.

Values-based food sourcing prioritizes principles in addition to cost when deciding which food items to purchase. Implementing a comprehensive, values-based food procurement program helps to ensure that institutional food purchasing advances an equitable, healthy, fair, local, humane, and sustainable food system. 

Large enterprises, such as the County, have the opportunity to support farmers and producers who operate with values outlined in the proposed policy. The program has the potential to positively impact the regional food system by increasing market opportunities for businesses in the food chain including producers, manufactures, and distributors that align operations with the Board-directed values categories. 

Additionally, sustainability and equity-focused institutional food purchasing can be an immediate and long-term strategy to reduce health disparities through improving the quality of food served to vulnerable and under-resourced communities.

For example, by centering equity in the County’s food procurement, the County has the potential to focus public funds to positively impact the food system for local food producers, workers, and businesses owned and/or operated by underserved communities. 

Government agencies across the nation that have implemented values-based food and beverage procurement programs have realized positive outcomes such as increased purchases from their local farmers and demand for products that improve food systems. 

The development of the Sustainable, Equitable, and Local Food Sourcing Program was guided by San Diego County Food Vision 2030, which was developed by a group of diverse San Diego County food system stakeholders called the San Diego Food System Alliance. 

The Board of Supervisors initiated this framework on June 8, 2021, by allocating $1 million from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Food Assistance Component. On January 25, 2022, the Board directed staff to commence implementation of the Sustainable, Equitable, and Local Food Sourcing Program and to develop an internal County policy. Subsequently, on June 14, 2022, the Board directed staff to return within 18 months with a final policy for adoption, which occurred today.

Read the entire policy here.