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Healthy Food Procurement in the County of Los Angeles

Overview

By creating a healthier food environment in County government food venues and programs, the Board of Supervisors used its purchasing power to positively affect quality of life issues associated with overweight and obesity among County employees, patrons who purchase food and beverages from County operated food venues, and populations to whom the County distributes meals (e.g., youth, seniors, and incarcerated individuals). Once the healthy food procurement initiative is fully implemented, county venues and programs will become model healthy food environments.

The 2011 motion authorized two important procedural features: 1) all County departments involved in food and/or beverage procurement, their sales or distribution are required to include food service requirements (i.e., nutrition standards and practices that promote healthy foods), to the extent feasible, in their new or renewing RFPs (i.e., selection process for food service/vending contracts); and 2) the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (DPH) is appointed as the coordinating agency for the healthy food procurement initiative, including reviewer and technical assistance responsibilities.   

To effectively coordinate this initiative, a DPH staff member interviews representatives from each County department to learn more about their food service practices and discuss their specific departmental needs in order to effectively operate a particular food venue. These meetings are designed to lead to a greater understanding of the complex food services landscape that comprises the County of Los Angeles. For example, the departments sell or distribute food and beverages to different populations in a variety of settings, such as older adults at community centers or parks, children in summer and afterschool programs, and County employees in worksite cafeterias. Additionally, contract timelines and details vary significantly among departments.

After the initial interview and assessment, each department’s procurement procedures for food service and vending contracting became more well-defined. This helped to prepare staff at DPH to provide technical support to each department, including development of nutrition standards for each food service RFP, and development of quality improvement plans, provision of social marketing materials and training, and troubleshooting of implementation barriers.

Setting: Retail food and beverage venues (i.e., cafeterias, vending machines, snack shops) and programs that offer or distribute food to dependent populations (i.e., jails, probation halls/ camps, hospitals, etc.).

Target population: County of Los Angeles employees, patrons who purchase food and beverages from County food venue sites, and populations to whom the County distributes meals (e.g. youth, seniors, patients, and incarcerated individuals)

Length of time in the field: Since the passage of the motion in March 2011.