Biden Administration urged to improve federal food service guidelines

A Roadmap for Comprehensive Food Service Guidelines

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Executive Order would fulfill commitment in Administration’s national food strategy

WASHINGTON—In September of 2022, the Biden Administration released a National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health committing to update and implement the Food Service Guidelines for Federal Facilities. Now, 160 organizations, including members of the newly formed Federal Good Food Purchasing Coalition, are calling on the administration to fulfill that commitment by issuing an Executive Order requiring all federal agencies to implement the updated guidelines as well as a plan for values-aligned food purchasing across federal agencies. The Coalition also delivered to the White House a petition signed by 22,426 individuals calling for the same measure.  

The federal government spends about $8.8 billion on food each year, according to the Congressional Research Service. In 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the General Services Administration first issued voluntary food service guidelines for federal agencies, but agencies have been slow to adopt them, according to a letter from the groups. An Executive Order to implement updated federal food service guidelines is needed to ensure adoption, which will improve health outcomes and reduce long-term health care costs for federal employees, veterans in Veterans Affairs hospitals, members of the armed services, and people who are incarcerated in federal prisons, according to the organizations. 

“A formal policy to fulfill the Biden Administration’s commitment to update and implement the Food Service Guidelines for Federal Facilities is overdue,” said CSPI senior policy associate Jessi Silverman. “Other commitments in the National Strategy require action from Congress or rulemaking by federal agencies, but the President can initiate a transformation of federal food purchasing and service with the stroke of a pen.” 

Additionally, the organizations say, federal food purchasing should be aligned with previous Biden Administration Executive Orders that identify federal procurement as a means to mitigate climate change, advance racial equity, and increase protections for workers.  

Twenty-five cities and counties have embraced this values-aligned approach to food procurement by adopting the Good Food Purchasing Program, a framework and verification system for leveraging public food dollars to promote robust local economies, environmental sustainability, a valued workforce, animal welfare, and community health and nutrition. 

"The federal government has an important opportunity to support more nutritious diets and more sustainable food systems at the same time, by using their guidelines and their formidable purchasing power to support those production practices that are better for people and planet" said Paula Daniels, Co-founder of the Center for Good Food Purchasing. 

“Too many current federal procurement practices work against the Biden Administration’s stated values,” said Sarah Carden, Sr. Policy Advocate at Farm Action. “This executive order would enable the Biden Administration to capture the power of federal procurement and use it to support local independent producers and foster competition in food and agriculture.” 

“The federal government’s billions in food purchases can be a powerful tool to combat the climate crisis,” said Lisa Gonzalez, Senior Food and Climate Policy Analyst at Friends of the Earth. “This proposed Executive Order would be an important next step toward fulfilling President Biden’s commitments to climate justice, racial equity, public health, and worker rights.” 

“Public food contracts should not be offered to companies who exploit their workers. Procurement can instead be a tool to hold employers accountable to respecting workers’ rights by prioritizing food suppliers who have fair labor practices and who are transparent about where their food is sourced,” said Nezahualcoyotl Xiuhtecutli, General Coordinator at the Farmworker Association of Florida. “We want to see our federal agencies lead in building equitable food supply chains by implementing values-based food purchasing.”  

The Biden administration has already urged state and local governments to adopt food service guidelines as part of its White House Challenge to End Hunger and Build Healthy Communities

“The federal government has an opportunity and a responsibility to lead by example, supporting a food system that protects public health, reduces climate impacts and embeds racial equity,” said Emma Sirois, National Director of the Healthy Food in Health Care Program at Health Care Without Harm. “This Executive Order would do just that, leveraging public investments and the federal government’s purchasing power to shift markets and spur private sector replication.”  

“The Biden Administration has the opportunity to set an industry standard by guaranteeing federal money to high road companies that respect workers’ rights to join a union, ensure worker safety, and pay family-sustaining wages – an opportunity that should not be missed,” said Marc Perrone, President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union. “By using federal purchasing power to create industry leaders, this executive order would only strengthen the UFCW’s commitment to holding employers accountable, ensuring that workers are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.”