The Boston City Council today approved a measure that would require city agencies, such as Boston Public Schools, to pay more attention to where the food they buy comes from and how it's prepared.
The Good Food Purchasing Effort proposal, which now goes to Mayor Walsh for his signature would require city departments to make efforts to increase the local content of food purchases - and to take into account the treatment of both food workers and animals when deciding where to buy that food.
Councilor Michelle Wu (at large), who proposed the measure, said it's time for the city to try to use its purchasing power to improve the food that it serves - as well as do what it can to improve the food industry, which she said is rife with everything from poor treatment of migrant workers on farms and in factories to the poor treatment of animals.
At the same time, encouraging local, even urban, agriculture can mean fresher food and a reduction in environmental impacts from shipping stuff across the country.
She said BPS alone spends $18 million a year on food purchases.
She pointed to the lowly fish stick as an example of how the city should be working to make things better. BPS's fish sticks come from boats based in Gloucester, where a company chops up the fish and creates fish-stick-shaped frozen things that it ships to a non-profit concern in Boston for cooking into the breaded fish sticks we all know.
But instead of that facility shipping the fish sticks to BPS, it sends them down to a factory in Connecticut for placement in sealed plastic meal trays that are then shipped back to Boston and, finally, to BPS, which then delivers them to local meals for heating and eating.
Wu added that if the ordinance goes into effect, the city could try to get local colleges and hospitals - which also make large purchases of food each year - to join in.