Government food purchasing and service: Impact analyses

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Several organizations have estimated the impact of government food procurement and food service on health, climate change, costs to taxpayers, and other outcomes.  


The Federal Good Food Purchasing Coalition (FGFPC) estimated that the federal government directly purchased $9.1 billion worth of food in fiscal year 2022, with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Department of Defense accounting for more than 90 percent of those purchases.  
  • They estimated that the greenhouse gas emissions from one year of federal food purchasing is more than the emissions from every passenger vehicle in Virginia or all of the energy-related emissions in New Hampshire for one year.  
  • Animal products—especially beef—dominate the greenhouse gas and land use footprints of federal food purchases. The FGFPC estimated that shifting a portion of animal product purchases to plant-based sources of protein would reduce emissions, conserve resources, reduce the number of animals slaughtered, improve health, and save taxpayer money—creating a win-win for the federal government.  
  • Explore other environmental and social impacts of federal food purchasing here.  
  • Friends of the Earth performed a similar analysis of the USDA Foods program, which accounts for a sizable portion of the USDA’s direct food purchases. 
Infographic beef reduced 50%
Federal Good Food Purchasing Coalition
When researchers modeled the health and healthcare cost impacts of implementing the Food Service Guidelines for Federal Facilities in government and private worksite cafeterias, they found improvements could result in healthcare savings of $212,260,877.
  • When applied to all 15 million government employees in the United States, the intervention was estimated to result in 107 million fewer heart attacks, 30 million fewer strokes, 134 million fewer cases of diabetes, 56 million fewer deaths from heart disease, and 8 million fewer deaths from stroke over employees’ working lives. These improvements in health could in turn result in healthcare cost savings of $212,260,877.
The Rockefeller Foundation and the Center for Good Food Purchasing estimated that the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program generate $21 billion annually in net value to society through improvements in health outcomes and poverty reduction. 
  • Put another way, every $1 invested in the school meal programs generates at least $2 in benefits to society. An even higher return on investment—at least $10 billion greater net value—could be achieved by maximizing student participation in the programs, improving nutritional composition of the meals, and optimizing procurement of environmentally sustainable and locally sourced food. 

State and Local

66 institutions in 25 cities and counties across the country are enrolled in the Good Food Purchasing Program (GFPP). These institutions collectively spend $1 billion on food each year. When the Center for Food Purchasing analyzed 15 enrolled institutions’ real world purchasing shifts between the baseline and first annual assessment, estimated impacts included:
  • $12 million increase in local sourcing
  • 90 local jobs created
  • $4 million local wages generated
  • $12 million decrease in meat purchases
  • Carbon footprint reduction equivalent to taking 5,781 cars off the road
  • $15 million increase in produce purchases
  • 5% reduction in mortality risk of the population served
  • 13% reduction in chronic disease risk of the population served
  • $1 million reduction in healthcare costs of the population served
12 institutions in California’s Bay Area are enrolled in the GFPP collectively spend $41.5 million on food annually. The Center for Good Food Purchasing estimated potential impacts of shifting food purchases by these institutions. If Bay Area institutions…
  • reduced purchases of beef by 30 percent, the carbon footprint reduction would be equivalent to taking 1,379 cars off the road for a year.
  • replaced 20 conventionally produced fruits and vegetables with organic versions, it could reduce pesticide use by 486 lbs.  
  • doubled local purchases, 74 local jobs and $4 million in local wages could be generated.
  • doubled purchases of produce, the population served could experience a 3 percent reduction in mortality risk, a 7.2 percent reduction in chronic disease risk, and a $567,000 reduction in healthcare costs.

You can use the Good Food Impact Hub to calculate how food purchasing can impact your communities, environments, and health costs, and learn how these shifts can also benefit essential food workers, animal welfare, and equity.  

The Center for Good Food Purchasing commissioned Econsult Solutions to analyze the potential impact of greater local food sourcing in six U.S. regions. For example, a 12% increase in local food sourcing in Austin, Texas is projected to create $30.9 billion in economic growth and 172,000 local jobs.  

Job study impact
Center for Good Food Purchasing