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The perks of using healthy food procurement as an obesity prevention strategy

What exactly is healthy food procurement?

Let’s define healthy food procurement first. The term “procurement” refers to acquiring commodities, services, or work from an outside source and is used in various food-related contexts. For instance, it could entail governments purchasing agricultural products from farmers for public stocks. It could refer to the method used, for example, by a fast-food chain to get its potatoes. Finally, it may refer to food purchases for meals served in public settings, such as schools, hospitals, jails, and public events. The phrase “healthy food procurement” relates to this latter setting, with the all-important “healthy” part referring to the process of ensuring that obtained food supports healthy eating behaviours among those fed.

Why is the purchase of wholesome food a promising strategy? 

Here are a few justifications for using food procurement to combat obesity.

  1. Procuring healthy food has been tried and tested. 

National and municipal governments have been eager to implement food procurement guidelines for wholesome foods. There are national requirements for the US Army and Parks Service and numerous state and municipal regulations for vending and food served at schools in the United States and other countries. In the EU, most Member States participate in the School Fruit Scheme. School meal standards have been implemented in at least 35 nations worldwide, including Latin America, the Pacific, Asia, Western and Eastern Europe, and the Middle East.

Although this is not a majority of nations, it is a lot more than those who have adopted other obesity measures like limiting marketing to children. It also means that there are instances from which we can learn, even though there are still significant obstacles to obtaining good meals.

  1. Healthy food procurement is a viable option.

Evidence from school settings suggests that good food procurement can help to promote healthier diets. It is not always clear-cut, but it is apparent enough (if well-designed and implemented). In my following blog, I’ll be delving deeper into the evidence and how to interpret it.

  1. A wide range of interests supports healthy food procurement.

Buying healthy food is not merely a suggestion made to enhance diets. Not at all. It can provide numerous positive effects on the food system, which is a significant advantage. One is enhancing the standard of living for those who grow the food. For instance, the World Food Programmer’s “Purchase for Progress” (P4P) program aims to increase small farmers’ participation in World Food Programme procurement activities while enhancing participant producer households’ access to nutrient-dense food. The World Food Programme (WFP) is the UN agency that provides emergency assistance to people needing food.

Another illustration is “Home Grown School Feeding,” a global movement that strives to provide affordable school feeding programs utilizing food from smallholder or family farmers. Additionally, a tactic is known as “sustainable food procurement” is utilized to encourage suppliers to produce food sustainably. Again, Rome is an often-used example. A lot more people than the obesity community are working to procure healthy foods because of the number of advantages, it brings to the food chain. And given that we know we need to form partnerships to create a more favourable political environment for obesity policy, it is a significant – and underutilized – advantage.

  1. Healthy food procurement can address primary nutrition in all of its forms.

People who lack proper nutrition and are food insecure should also consider purchasing healthy food; for instance, many school feeding programmes were started in response to undernutrition. Brazil offers a variety of institutional purchasing initiatives intended to combat food insecurity. However, procurement practices have been traditionally developed as if obesity and undernutrition were two entirely different issues. A lot may be learned from this history to make the most of the potential for purchasing nutritious foods as a “double-duty” strategy to tackle both issues.

  1. A constructive environment for interaction with the private sector is provided through purchasing healthy food.

Whether we like it or not, the private sector – whether a family farmer or a global food service firm – is responsible for a significant portion of the production and distribution of food in our public institutions. Thus, obtaining healthy food necessitates interaction with the private sector by necessity. Often, it also entails establishing regulations (we all agree that public institutions shouldn’t serve junk food!). As a result, conflicts are inevitable. But if we think and act appropriately, it’s a place where we can forge creative and fruitful connections aimed at achieving results to use better the strength of the public and the private sectors to produce high-quality food.

Well, Food producers who serve institutions through procurement may gain economically, and there is room to focus on local companies’ provision. But, beyond the producers of food, procurement can have a significant positive impact on a community’s economy.

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