Institutional Food Purchasing Report


November 1, 2010 - <>, Susan Schmidt, Val George


All Michigan residents are touched by institutions and their food purchasing decisions in some way: our sons and daughters participate in the lunch program at school; members of the next generation nourish themselves in college and university dining halls; our friends and family members are cared for at hospitals and healthcare facilities. In 2008, spending on food away from home in the United States was 48.5 percent ($565 billion) of total food expenditures ($1,165.3 billion). 

Schools and colleges along with eating and drinking places, recreational places, hotels and motels, retail stores and direct selling, and other establishments are the major categories that the U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service uses to determine expenditures on food away from home. K-12 schools in Michigan, for example, spend about $200 million on food. Michigan State University (MSU) Food Stores, which supplies food to residential dining halls on campus, spent approximately $22 million on food and non-food items in fiscal year 2006-2007; $2.1 million, about 10 percent of that budget, was spent on produce. With so many meals consumed away from home, we must address institutional food purchasing as we develop a Good Food Charter for Michigan.

We envision new approaches to food purchasing in which these Michigan institutions provide local, good food to consumers and create new markets for products grown, raised and processed in Michigan. In turn, these new approaches can help stimulate growth in local agriculture, encourage development of local food system infrastructure and increase access to good food. Evidence that these new approaches have such benefits can be found in the experiences of some Michigan institutions that have overcome challenges and started local food programs that benefit the institution, the food suppliers and the customers.

If more of these institutions could provide good food to help Michiganders maintain diets that are consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, health outcomes of our residents would improve. Though we tend to focus on fresh fruit and vegetable products, minimally processed fresh Michigan products can also contribute to healthy diets and provide economic opportunities to process Michigan agricultural products into forms that institutions can use, given their many constraints.

By purchasing a variety of local foods, institutions can provide high quality, nutritious meals, support local farmers, producers and processors, and support the Michigan economy.

Shouldn’t all Michigan residents, from prisoners to school children and college students to hospital visitors and staff members, have access to the same high quality, local foods? Shouldn’t our institutional food purchasing dollars stay in Michigan to the greatest extent possible? Why not promote policies that could help provide good food at all of Michigan’s institutions?

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