In a June 29 letter to President Biden, the organizations, including the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Earthjustice and the American Heart Association, request that the administration formalize the Food Service Guidelines for Federal Facilities as described in the strategy.
“With less than two years left of this presidential term, we urge you to make good on this commitment with an Executive Order to update and require implementation of the FSG in all federally owned and operated facilities,” the groups said in the letter.
Additionally, the Federal Good Food Purchasing Coalition, comprising CSPI, the Environmental Working Group, Friends of the Earth, and others, delivered a petition with the same ask to the White House signed by more than 22,000 individuals.
The National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition and Health offers a blueprint for various food-related initiatives, promises to fund certain programs and calls for buy-in from private companies and state legislatures, but stops short of mandating specific actions.
Per the strategy, an update of the FSG “will promote fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and low sodium options; increase the availability of healthy beverage choices as well as plant-based options; and encourage healthy choices through behavioral design.”
It would impact all federal facilities, such as veterans’ hospitals, military bases, national parks and prisons, and expand access to healthy and sustainable food, while benefiting millions of government employees and those who access the facilities.
Moreover, the strategy advises state, local and territory governments to adopt the FSG in their municipal buildings while limiting coupons or sales for unhealthy foods and beverages.
Update is due
However, in the eyes of the letter signers, the White House must act soon to implement the FSG, preferably with an executive order. CSPI senior policy associate Jessi Silverman suggested that a formal policy to enact an FSG update is “overdue.”
“Other commitments in the National Strategy require action from Congress or rulemaking by federal agencies, but the President can initiate a transformation of federal food purchasing and service with the stroke of a pen,” she explained.
The NGOs suggest in the letter that an executive order should also include a timeline and roadmap for implementing “comprehensive, values-aligned food procurement standards for federal agencies.”
The Congressional Research Service estimates that the federal government spends approximately $8.8 billion on food each year, and the organizations advocate for that federal food purchasing to align with prior executive actions that intend to utilize federal procurement “as a means to mitigate climate change, advance racial equity and increase protections for workers.”
That values-based approach has already been adopted by 25 cities and counties through the Good Food Purchasing program, a framework designed to promote local economies, sustainability and community health and nutrition by leveraging public food dollars, CSPI pointed out.
"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.
“Walk the walk”
In the eyes of the organizations, the $8.8 billion the federal government spends on food each year presently “supports the status quo industrial food system, which compromises human, animal, and planetary health through exploitation of farm and food workers, concentration of corporate wealth, degradation of natural resources, and overproduction of highly processed foods with low nutrition value,” they said in the letter.
Instead, an executive order to implement the FSG would help to improve health and reduce health care costs for federal employees, armed service members and the federally incarcerated.
Voluntary adoption of the FSG has been slow in federal facilities, but a consistent policy for the federal government “would yield economies of scale, and would facilitate and simplify education, implementation and enforcement,” the NGOs maintained.
Additionally, mandatory implementation of the FSG in federal facilities could signal to state and local governments that the federal government is willing to “walk the walk” and encourage widespread adoption of the initiative.