Child nutrition programs across the country exercise collective purchasing power on a massive scale. Pre-pandemic, the National School Lunch Program alone invested $14.2 billion annually to serve 29.6 million lunches every school day. K-12 school meals, early care and education (ECE) nutrition, after-school snacks, and summer meals are an opportunity for every community to express their values through purchasing priorities and to shift power in the food system as a whole.
During our NFSN Community Gathering: Shifting Power, Cultivating Justice in June 2021, we hosted a panel of experts and practitioners to discuss the opportunities and power in values-aligned procurement, including:
- Jennifer Gaddis, associate professor of Civil Society and Community Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and author of The Labor of Lunch: Why We Need Real Food and Real Jobs in American Public Schools
- Jose Oliva, Campaigns Director with HEAL Food Alliance
- Chang Vue, Capacity Building Director with Hmong American Farmers Association
- Jackie Wincek, Procurement and Sustainability Specialist, DC Central Kitchen
In this powerful session, moderated by Janna Parker, NFSN Policy Associate, the panelists articulated how every decision made in our food system signifies a choice being made, whether hidden or apparent. As Jose Oliva shared, “The system shows the values they care about with the choices they make.” Inspired by the drive to shift power in our food system through values-aligned procurement, this session shed light on the interconnectedness of our society’s issues and the importance of intersectionality in the work that we do. Jennifer Gaddis illustrated, “The cafeteria is a place that we can all collectively renegotiate our values.” And as we work to mobilize and shift power, we, with cultural humility, must prioritize and empower our local communities by centering the voices of those who are most impacted by the changes in our food system. Watch the conversation above or here.