Leveraging the Purchasing Power of Public School Food Programs to Achieve a Just Transition

Authors: Jessica L Gilbert*, University at Buffalo
Topics: Coupled Human and Natural Systems
Keywords: School Food, Institutional Purchasing, Food Equity, Just Transition, Community Food Systems
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: 8229, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This research examines Buffalo Public Schools (BPS) as a case study to investigate the relationship between institutional purchasing power and the implementation of a just transition in public school food systems. Recognizing the critical intersections between social and ecological (in)justice, food equity organizations throughout the United States and in Buffalo, in particular, are working to implement a just transition, which addresses social and ecological issues as inseparable parts of an interconnected system. In working towards a just transition, many of Buffalo’s food equity organizations are pushing BPS to adopt the Good Food Purchasing Program (GFPP) in an effort to ensure that public tax dollars are spent in ways that reflect public values. While there are several school food improvement programs already being implemented in BPS that reflect elements of a just transition, adopting the GFPP will extend these efforts to not only improve access to and nutrition of food at school, but to reflect other values throughout the food system, as well. These include promoting environmental sustainability, animal welfare, a valued workforce, and local economies. This research examines how the adoption of the GFPP by BPS might further efforts in Buffalo to implement a just transition. In order to begin answering this question, a just transition theoretical framework is proposed, through which the GFPP might be assessed for characteristics of a just transition. The framework will develop five key just transition strategies: democratizing engagement, decentralizing decision- making, diversifying economic activity, decreasing consumption, and (re)distributing resources and power.

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