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Pittsburgh uses school lunches to address environmental and labor issues

Pittsburgh uses school lunches to address environmental and labor issues

Pittsburgh Public Schools will examine where it purchases food this winter as part its initial assessment of a good food purchasing strategy it adopted in fall.

The plan promotes healthy eating and environmental sustainability, local business, fair labor practices, fair wages, and humane treatment of animals.

After more than a decade of discussions with the regional “good foods coalition”, the PPS board of Directors approved the idea on October. The group, which included the Allegheny County Health Department and local health care providers, was convened by the Pittsburgh Food Policy Council.

Advocates hope that the initiative will bring about greater change in the region’s food system, given the district’s $15 million food budget.

PPS will, however, be focusing on its suppliers for the moment.

We’ve [already]I reached out to some vendors and said, Hey! This is the direction that our company is moving in. Malik Hamilton (PPS food services production and buying coordinator) said that this is a product that our vendors buy. We would love to make it a local item.

And we are beginning to see that the market has already begun to sort of adjust, so we are able to offer some suggestions. [these changes]He said that it will be simple.

He said, “There are certain products that people that we work with and buy from are not going be willing to change those changes.” We will need to find another product.

Hamilton mentioned that PPS might have trouble finding local produce for the more 23,000 meals it serves per day, since the school year coincides with winter.

But he stated that the district hopes for a vendor to freeze and store fresh vegetables and fruits to be eaten in the colder months.

Hamilton said that by reducing its dependence on suppliers far away, the district can reduce the distance its food must travel before it reaches school cafeterias. COVID-19 revealed the fragility and inextricability of far-flung supply chain. Hamilton pointed out that reduced transportation requirements could be a good thing for the environment, and could reduce the district’s overall food bill.

However, other changes could result in higher prices.

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Sarah Buranskas, Pittsburgh Food Policy Council project manger, stated that the district might pay more for the exact same item if the cheaper version was processed in a facility with poor working conditions or a living wage.

Large public institutions have had a guiding purchasing policy since ancient times. [achieving]Buranskas stated that the lowest cost is achieved.

She said that because the community funds them, they should ask, “What are the values of the community and how can we purchase food that reflects those values?”

She also noted that University of PittsburghAnd some UPMC LocationsThey have also implemented policies with similar goals to the PPS purchasing initiative.

She said that such efforts are intended to be able move large amounts money and, in this way, influence vendors and providers. Large public institutions continue to play an important role in shaping our food system.

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