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Healthy Food Procurement in the County of Los Angeles

Potential Public Health Impact

Reach: The healthy food procurement institutional policy has high potential for reach as it intends to increase access to healthy foods and beverages in various food venues that serve County employees and visitors, many of whom are minorities, populations at risk for obesity and poverty, and immigrants. The reach is amplified if the populations to whom the County distributes food to, such as youth, senior citizens and inmates, are also considered.

Estimated No. of Meals Served in Various Settings/Programs in Los Angeles County

Settings/Program

Number of Meals served
per day

Worksite cafeterias

1,820

Mobile trucks

2,500

Snack shops

1,000

Jails

74,000

Juvenile Hall/Probation camps

11,050

Hospitals

3,589

Effectiveness: The potential for effectiveness is also high as the institutional policy uses multiple evidence-based approaches, therefore, is likely to lead to improvements in the food choices of employees and users of the County’s facilities. However, as of this review, evidence for effectiveness is currently limited to only one of their 12 County departments, which is the County Department of Public Works. Current evaluation findings show that improvements have been made in the availability of healthy snacks and beverage options in their vending machines and in the number of healthier entrées options in their cafeteria.

Adoption: As of the Center TRT review, five out of the 12 County departments have adopted healthy procurement policies and/or practices through specific contractual requirements, including the Department of Public Works, Department of Health Services, the Probation Department, the Department of Parks and Recreation and the Chief Executive Office. Three of the five departments’ food venues include cafeterias and vending machines. The Probation Department includes food services at juvenile halls and camps and the Department of Parks and Recreation administers distributive meal programs in the summer and after-school. 

Because the institutional policy is relatively new, the current adoption rate is unlikely to reflect the final rate, particularly as the requirements in the Board motion is an institutional request to follow new food procurement procedures. Furthermore, support through training, technical assistance and monitoring should further increase adoption in the remaining departments. If demonstrated to be feasible and effective, other government and private workplaces with similar infrastructures around the country could adopt similar strategies in healthy food procurement policies. 

Implementation: As of the Center TRT review, one out of the 12 County departments (Department of Public Works) had begun implementation of the institutional policy, which includes integrating healthy food procurement standards in their contract, hiring a new food vendor and increasing access to healthier food choices in their cafeteria and vending machines.

Similar to Adoption, the potential for implementation is relatively high as this is an institutional requirement and funding is available to support on-going technical assistance and monitoring.  However, the differences in food venues and diverse populations across the County departments highlight ongoing challenges with the implementation process.

Maintenance: The healthy food procurement initiative in the County of Los Angeles is complex and comprehensive so maintenance is a major consideration, particularly if and when funding for technical assistance and monitoring decreases or ends. However, this may be less of a concern, as this institutional policy becomes more common and relations with new food vendors become more established. Maintaining the changes should become easier as healthier food choices become new social norms for cafeterias, vending machines and other food venues in the County of Los Angeles and elsewhere in California and in the U.S.