As a result of this partnership, 30 million students in over 5,000 school districts will have opportunity to access to high quality food and products at a more competitive price.
The Urban School Food Alliance (USFA), a nonprofit coalition of the largest school districts in the United States that includes New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami-Dade, Dallas, and Orange County(Fla.) Public Schools, and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation (the Alliance), founded by the American Heart Association and the Clinton Foundation to reduce the prevalence of childhood obesity, announced a game-changing partnership to improve school meals.
Both USFA and the Alliance are committed to helping schools serve children healthy, balanced meals that are low in saturated fat, sugar and sodium and include fresh fruits, vegetables, lean protein, low fat dairy and whole grains. Leveraging combined meal-related budgets totaling over $3 billion from the USFA school districts and the districts that work with the Alliance, this partnership will drive innovative market solutions that are nutritionally wholesome, ecologically sound, economically viable and socially responsible. As a result, 30 million students in over 5,000 school districts will have the opportunity to access high quality food and products at more competitive prices.
Specifically, USFA and the Alliance will:
- Challenge manufacturers to formulate food that ensures students receive nutritious AND delicious meals, meeting, and even exceeding, USDA guidelines.
- Challenge vendors to schools to create new food-related supplies that incorporate green practices that strengthen the health and wellness of students and preserve our environment.
- Work with vendors, farmers and related organizations to join the effort and increase local procurement of fresh quality food and supplies, while reducing our carbon footprint.
- Create easy-to-use procurement tools and resources to allow districts engaged with the Alliance's Healthy Schools Program to access this unprecedented purchasing power.
- Develop a training and mentoring program that will allow the Urban School Food Alliance to share its tried and true best practices with all the Alliance's Healthy Schools Program districts.
USFA's purchasing power of $550 million has driven systemic and wholesale change to the school food programs in its six member districts. Since its inception in 2012, the USFA has been successful at putting ambitious procurement goals into practice at its six member districts. Just last year, in collaboration with the Natural Resources Defense Council, it drove companies to supply antibiotic-free chicken products to its schools to protect the health of students. It also challenged industry to develop an innovative and affordable environmentally friendly round plate to replace the standard rectangular polystyrene tray school cafeterias use across the country, thereby removing 225 million polystyrene trays from landfills every year from the USFA's six districts alone.
"This partnership will create a market-driven, progressive change in school meals," said Urban School Food Alliance Chairman Eric Goldstein, who also serves as chief executive officer of School Support Services for the New York City Department of Education. "We're excited to collaborate with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation to create meaningful improvement on how food and food supplies are procured for the health and wellness of students and the environment."
The Alliance's Healthy Schools Program is the nation's largest school-based childhood obesity prevention initiative, currently reaching millions of students. The program's success in helping America's schools meet voluntary school nutrition standards set the stage for the adoption of the current federal school meal and snack standards. Today, the Alliance works closely with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help ensure schools are fully equipped to serve nutritious meals and that collaborators assisting schools have access to proven tools and resources.
"The Alliance has an unparalleled record of working with the food and beverage industry to achieve solutions that provide healthier options to children and their families," said Dr. Howell Wechsler, CEO of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. "We're thrilled to partner with the Urban School Food Alliance to make the healthy choice the affordable choice for schools across the country."
Through the combined purchasing power of the Alliance's national network and USFA's dramatic success in its six member districts, this partnership has the capacity to ripple across the country and influence the market at large.