Two counties commit to purchase more local products

Local food policy councils advance local purchasing practices.

Photo credit: hobvias sudoneighm

Photo credit: hobvias sudoneighm

Throughout Michigan, food systems stakeholders are looking for ways to promote local and regional food systems. The growing number of local food policy councils support this interest. These local councils can address food policy through a variety of approaches, based on what makes sense for their community.

One policy that has been passed by at least two food policy councils is a local purchasing preference for County agencies. In 2012, the Macomb County Board of Commissioners adopted an amended procurement ordinance to favor “locally-sourced foods and products from farms that use sustainable and environmentally-sound practices.” This preference applies to all County agencies that require a bidding process prior to purchasing. The amended ordinance was developed in partnership with the Macomb Food Collaborative.

In Washtenaw County, a similar policy recently passed. The Board of Commissioners adopted an amendment to their county procurement policy to “give preference to locally grown, processed, and prepared foods, local goods and services, with an aim of the County and its vendors purchasing 20 percent of food products locally by 2020.” This policy is one of 23 policy initiatives that were endorsed by the Board of Commissioners, developed by the Washtenaw Food Policy Council. The goal of purchasing 20 percent food products locally aligns with the Michigan Good Food Charter.

In Macomb, the County has not yet had a chance to implement the local preference for purchasing. A limited number of County agencies are required to use a bidding process for their purchasing, and within those agencies, none have faced a contract renewal since the time the ordinance was adopted. According to a County Purchasing Department representative, in the coming year the County Jail and Senior Nutrition Programs will be renewing their food service contracts. This will be the first opportunity to implement the local purchasing preference.

In Washtenaw the recent adoption of the local purchasing policy was supported by a number of factors coming together. According to County Commissioner Yousef Rabhi, an allegiance of stakeholder community groups, timing, political momentum and initial research and work were all contributing factors that allowed the Board to pass this policy. Rabhi explained that this policy upholds a common value of reinvesting in the community, by thinking about local businesses first, and encouraging the County procurement process to do the same.

Local food policy councils play an important role in advancing local food systems work. If you are interested in getting involved with a local food policy council in your community, or starting one, consider contacting your local Michigan State University Extension office to talk about opportunities. The Community Food Systems Workgroup supports the work of local food policy and education groups across the state to promote the development of Michigan’s food system.

Photo credit: hobvias sudoneighm

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