White House Releases New Food Service Guidelines

White House takes first step toward transforming federal food procurement and service

WASHINGTON – Released on Tuesday ahead of the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health, the Biden-Harris Administration National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health calls for updating and implementing the Food Service Guidelines for Federal Facilities. Developed by an interagency working group led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food Service Guidelines are evidence-based, currently voluntary best practices to increase access to healthy and safely prepared food in federal facilities such as cafeterias in federal office buildings, Veterans Affairs hospitals, federal prisons, and military facilities. The Guidelines also address some of the environmental and social impacts of food procurement and service, such as by encouraging locally-sourced and organic food.

The National Strategy stopped short of proposing a specific mechanism to implement the Food Service Guidelines. It also did not include a plan for establishing a values-driven federal food purchasing strategy that addresses environmental sustainability, worker justice, racial equity, animal welfare, and local economies in the food supply chain.

Leading up to the Conference, many stakeholders called for an Executive Order to require all federal facilities to implement the Food Service Guidelines and establish values-driven food purchasing standards for federal agencies. Proponents of such an Executive Order include 49 non-governmental organizations, eight members of the House of Representatives, Senator Cory Booker, a former director of the CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity, and the Task Force on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health.

“The White House’s National Strategy falls short of the bold change that is needed to fight the intersecting health, climate and racial justice crises our country faces,” said Chloe Waterman, senior program manager at Friends of the Earth. “While updating and implementing the Federal Food Service Guidelines is a crucial first step, President Biden must swiftly issue an Executive Order to implement the Food Service Guidelines and a values-driven food purchasing strategy across the federal government. This would ensure that a larger portion of the billions of dollars of food purchased by the federal government is spent on climate-friendly, plant-centered meals that could improve the health of millions of Americans, fight climate change, and advance racial justice and equity.” 

“While this is an encouraging starting point, the Biden-Harris administration must do more to maximize the impact and durability of healthy, just, and sustainable food purchasing and service across the federal government,” said Jessi Silverman, senior policy associate at the Center for Science in the Public Interest. “The next step must be an Executive Order to establish presidential leadership and accountability for these efforts.” 

“The federal government has an important opportunity to support more nutritious diets and more sustainable food systems at the same time, by using their guidelines and their formidable purchasing power to support those production practices that are better for people and planet,” said Paula Daniels, co-founder of the Center for Good Food Purchasing.

“We are encouraged that the Biden-Harris administration is recognizing the importance of engaging the healthcare sector as key partners in addressing nutrition security and food systems transformation,” said Emma Sirois, National Director of Healthy Food in Health Care at Heath Care Without Harm. “The administration can further impact community health, wealth and resilience by leveraging the food purchasing power at federal hospitals to support local economies, producers of color, and sustainable agriculture practices through executive action on the Food Service Guidelines.” 

“If the guidelines had been mandated ten years ago when they were first released, we would already be reaping significant health and climate benefits today,” said Dr. William H. Dietz, chair of the Sumner M. Redstone Global Center for Prevention and Wellness at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at The George Washington University. “Federal agencies have had a decade to voluntarily adopt the CDC’s expert policies, and that grace period has run its course—it is time for the federal government to get its own house in order.” 

“We applaud the White House for this National Strategy which takes significant strides to advance the food system,” said Carrie Apfel, senior attorney at Earthjustice. “Given the tremendous impact the food sector has on our climate, we are hopeful the administration will take the additional step of issuing an executive order to use the government’s enormous purchasing power to advance its climate and equity goals through its food procurement. By purchasing climate-friendly foods, the federal government can help us slow climate change.” 

“Through our members’ work on campaigns like Good Food Communities, we’ve seen that values-based procurement creates opportunities to achieve racial equity, worker justice, environmental justice, and transparency in our food system. It also has significant local economic impacts. For example, contracts with values-aligned local farmers, especially farmers of color who have historically been squeezed out of market can help these farmers stay on their land, pay their workers well, and grow food in ways that are environmentally sustainable,” said Navina Khanna, Executive Director of the HEAL Food Alliance. “We strongly encourage the White House to invest in the local and regional infrastructure that’s essential for values-based procurement as part of the National Strategy, as well as the local leaders who are spearheading the process.” 

Contact: Shaye Skiff, [email protected], 202-222-0723

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