D.C. Becomes First in the Nation to Set GHG Reduction Target for Food Purchases

Advocacy groups applaud D.C. Council for passing the Green Food Purchasing Act to reduce emissions from the District’s food purchasing by 25% by 2030

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Earlier today, the D.C. Council unanimously passed the Green Food Purchasing Act of 2021 (Councilmember Mary Cheh – Ward 3). The legislation will measure and reduce the GHG emissions associated with the food that the city of D.C. purchases by 25%.  

Once the measure is funded, D.C. will become the first jurisdiction in the country to establish a target for reducing GHG emissions associated with food purchases for public facilities including schools, public healthcare facilities, and correctional facilities. The bill also makes improvements to other environmentally preferable purchasing practices across D.C. government.  

“Our purchasing power is perhaps one of the best underutilized tools we have in the fight against climate change,” said Councilmember Mary Cheh (Ward 3), who introduced the legislation. “And the passage of the Green Food Purchasing Act ensures that every step of the food procurement process within our management—every dollar the District government spends—will be working toward our climate goals and measurable reductions in food-related greenhouse gas emissions. 

“Passing the Green Food Purchasing Act affirms the District of Columbia as a national leader in addressing the climate crisis,” said Chloë Waterman, Climate-Friendly Food Program Manager at Friends of the Earth. “Just as local governments have driven powerful market change by enacting green procurement policies for electric vehicles and clean energythey can have a huge impact on the food system by enacting healthy and climate-friendly food procurement policies. We applaud Councilmember Cheh for spearheading this crucial climate legislation.” 

Research has shown that diets high in climate-friendly foods like fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and legumes are also healthy diets. Therefore, this legislation has the potential to improve the nutritional profile of food served in D.C.’s public institutions. The bill could also mitigate racial health disparities given that D.C.’s public institutions disproportionately serve residents of color.  

At a time where we are facing a global climate crisis on top of existing health disparities in a pandemic, this timely legislation gives us an opportunity to act on behalf of people and the planet through the power of purchasing,” says Tambra Raye Stevenson, MPH, Founder/CEO, Women Advancing Nutrition Dietetics and Agriculture. “Also, the Green Food Purchasing Act is in alignment with the double health and climate pyramid, which encourages the adoption of climate-conscious foodservice that is both healthy for District residents and environmentally friendly.” 

Globally, the food and agriculture sector accounts for between 21 and 37% of total anthropogenic GHG emissions, according to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCC’s research has shown that unless we reduce food consumption-based emissions, emissions from food and agriculture alone will exceed the Paris agreement target.  

We know that if we don’t drastically mitigate climate change over the next decade, people of color will suffer first and the worst – and this includes people of color in D.C.,” said Lea Howe, director of education at D.C. Greens. “The Green Food Purchasing Act is an important step in both recognizing that the food system is a driver of the climate crisis and that shifting to more climate-friendly menus plays a role in advancing health equity in the District.”   

Communications contact: Kaela Bamberger, [email protected], 202-222-0703

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