Thursday June 01, 2023

What the health

October 04, 2021

While we are seeing signs of the popularizing of planet-friendly foods, how do we move at speed and scale to address the health and environmental crises we face?

One way is to change food environments so planet-aligned eating is easier. This is just what Bon Appetit Management Company (BAMCO) made possible in 2007 when, alarmed by the climate impacts of beef production, the company committed to reducing its beef purchases by 25 percent over five years at its cafes in cultural institutions and on college and corporate campuses around the country. By 2012, BAMCO had reduced beef from the 250 million meals it had been serving every year by 33 percent. ‘We did it without customers even noticing,’ said Maisie Ganzler, BAMCO’s Chief Strategy and Brand Officer.

Since then, the company has continued to explore ways to improve the health and environmental impact of its supply chain, focusing on ‘less meat, better meat,’ as Ganzler put it, and looking for ways to make the healthier options the default. Campaigns like DefaultVeg, housed by Better Food Foundation, are encouraging more institutions to publicly commit to planet-friendly food policies.

Another strategic pathway is tapping the power of procurement.

Every year, the US spends billions of dollars on food – from the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs to purchases by the Department of Defense. Making changes to those procurement choices is a powerful lever to shift food supply.

The Good Food Purchasing Program (GFPP) has been modeling what that kind of shift could look like at the city and county level. First adopted by the Los Angeles Unified School District in 2012, the GFPP is a purchasing policy that emphasizes food centered in the values

of health, local economies, worker well-being, animal welfare, and the environment.

When Oakland Unified School District, with approximately 50,000 students over 70 percent of whom qualify for free-reduced price meals, adopted the program in 2016, the District reduced animal products by nearly 30 percent and increased meat purchased from local sources raising livestock organically and more humanely. Friends of the Earth analyzed the results and found a 14 percent reduction in the Districts’ ‘carbon footprint’ and a 6 percent reduction in its ‘water footprint.’ What’s more, the District saved money and upped student satisfaction. We’re seeing this approach spreading around the world: Dine in any one of Berlin’s university cafeterias this fall and you’ll soon find ample plant-centered offerings thanks to student advocacy.

Excerpted: ‘Eating in the Age of Climate Crisis’