Local Purchasing

As a region Northeast Ohio spends about $10 billion dollars on food annually.  As a state with great agricultural traditions (check here for our national agriculture rankings), Ohio produces more than half the amount of food it would need to be self-sufficient.  And yet in Northeast Ohio only about 1% of the food we consume is produced in this region.  The Coalition’s Local Purchasing Working Group seeks to work with individuals, food service vendors, restaurants, institutions, and grocers to source a higher percentage of their food locally so the region benefits economically and the whole world benefits environmentally.  We’re doing this by helping each of those groups consider the value of “import substitution” and helping promote the type of distribution and processing network required to most effectively do that.

Follow this link to read a comprehensive policy brief prepared by FPC with a focus on institutional purchasing.

Previous Objectives

  • Supporting the creation of new farmers’ markets in Cleveland and Cuyahoga County
  • Helping acquire and administer an Ohio Specialty Crop Block Grant
  • Promoting the “local purchasing ordinance” and monitoring the results
  • Assissting in the implementation of the recommendations from the Northeast Ohio Local Food Assessment and Plan.

Fresh produce being trucked into Cleveland from the countryside


City of Cleveland’s Local Purchasing Ordinance

One of the key accomplishments of the Local Purchasing Working Group was the passage of Ordinance No. 1660-A-09, known informally as “the local purchasing ordinance.”  Local Purchasing facilitated Cleveland City Council and the Mayor’s Office partnering to develop the legislation, which was approved in April 2010.  It provides 2% bid discounts on all applicable City contracts to businesses that are sustainable, locally-based, and/or purchase 20% of their food locally – these can be combined for a max discount of 4%.  Supporting independent area producers enables them to practice or transition toward sustainable production methods and keeps more money in the regional economy.  The ordinance – and all the efforts that led up to it – illustrate the City of Cleveland’s interest in fostering local food production and the local economy in general.

With the help of the Local Purchasing Working Group, a resolution was originally introduced to Cleveland City Council at the end of 2008 that would incorporate a local food purchasing pledge into city food contracts (10% sourced from within 150 miles).  The resolution passed and can be viewed here in the City Record, and it ultimately led to the establishment of Ordinance No. 1660-A-09, which now mandates the City’s role in supporting the purchase of locally-produced food.

The Local Purchasing Working Group led the Coalition’s Quarterly Forum in April 2010 with an explanation from representatives of the City Council and Office of Equal Opportunity explaining the ordinance in general and their specific roles within its passage and implementation.

Creation & Promotion of Farmers’ Markets

Another major initiative of the Local Purchasing Working Group has been to bring together market managers and other key personnel of farmers’ markets to share best practices and work together to increase consumer participation in the network of markets in Greater Cleveland.

To ground this work, Local Purchasing aided a group at Case Western Reserve’s Weatherhead School of Management in conducting a study released in 2009 that looked at how to create successful farmers markets’ in low-income, urban neighborhoods.  The study, which incorporated national and international perspectives but was focused on Cleveland, supports the notion of farmers’ markets increasing access for underserved urban populations and offers numerous strategies and best practices for doing so.

In particular, several members of Local Purchasing were instrumental in laying the groundwork for the creation of the Downtown Farmers’ Market at Public Square in 2010 in the heart of Cleveland.  These members addressed issues ranging from identification of the most appropriate site to determining all the permits required to get the market off the ground in a safe and effective way.  As an extension of this work the working group put together a guide to starting farmers’ markets in Cuyahoga County.

The collaborative spirit among many farmers’ market managers in the area carried over to the formation of the Cleveland Farmers’ Market Guild (CFMG), a loosely-defined collection of independent markets in the area.  In 2010 under the guidance of Growhio and in conjunction with the Ohio City Inc., the CFMG was awarded an Ohio Specialty Crop Block Grant.  This allows the state to guide federal dollars toward the promotion of area-grown fresh fruits and vegetables and was executed by the CFMG and Growhio through the end of 2011.  The effort included: a) a promotional video on the benefits of buying such crops at local farmers’ markets, b) a series of classes taught by market managers and other educators affiliated with the group, and c) advertisements for specialty crops at farmers’ markets on the sides of area RTA buses.

Sustainable Street Food Pilot Program

In 2009 and 2010 the Coalition collaborated with the City of Cleveland and other partners to establish the Sustainable Street Food Pilot Program, which offers grants and favorable loans to new food cart operators who will provide healthy, locally-sourced menu items in a wide array of culinary styles.

Cleveland has a strong and diverse culinary tradition. The program was created in order to expand on this tradition, as well as encourage small business growth and sustainable business practices, activate public spaces, promote local artists, and facilitate the availability of healthy local food options. Partners include the City of Cleveland, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland Public Art, Charter One Bank, Playhouse Square, and the Coalition.

The Local Purchasing Working Group was closely involved in the creation and streamlining of the RFP/Application, as well as the evaluation of food cart proposals for their efforts to incorporate locally-produced and/or locally-processed ingredients and favor other sustainability measures such as recycling and use of minimal packaging.  Local Purchasing provided guidance to applicants on how to improve their menus accordingly and was involved in the creation of legislation that allowed the program to come into existence.

In its first year in 2010 the program filled approximately 10 slots, most of which involve a favorable loan to get the carts up and running, along with a grant to work with Cleveland Public Art to design appealing exteriors to carts in order to ensure the program contributes to a more vibrant culinary scene.  Read more here about the launch event for the program.

Cleveland Corner Store Project

The Local Purchasing Working Group was also involved in the Cleveland Corner Store Project, which helped increase the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables in convenience stores in underserved Cleveland neighborhoods as a way of addressing food insecurity.  The research was conducted through the Center for Health Promotion Research and was led by co-founder and former co-convener of the Coalition, Matt Russell.  The working group explored the feasibility of the produce featured in the program coming from local sources and was able to include a large number of apples via the City Fresh program.  The program was featured in a New York Times story in 2009 and also resulted in an academic paper on the topic.  For more information access the final report, FAQ, and a poster describing the results of the study.  Also, learn more about the role of the Health & Nutrition Working Group in this project.