FINE Partners with Vermont Law School to Analyze New England Local Food Procurement Policies

Erica Morrell, Policy Fellow

Farm to Institution New England (FINE) and the Center for Agriculture and Food Systems at Vermont Law School (CAFS) are collaborating to identify and analyze state institutional local food procurement policies across New England. Students enrolled in CAFS’ Food and Agriculture Clinic are researching relevant state policies and conducting interviews with key stakeholders to gain an understanding of the success and challenges related to each state’s local food procurement policies.

Interviewees include university procurement specialists, government representatives, community organizers, and food producers across the New England states. The project focuses on demand-side policies that impact food purchasers, and includes relevant information on additional initiatives that enhance producers’ capacity to meet institutional purchasing demands. The information from the project will be organized into six state policy snapshots, as well as a final cumulative report that will compare and analyze best practices throughout New England.

Preliminary Findings

  • State policies have the most significant impact when they include specific timelines and metrics for accomplishing goals.
  • Existing procurement structures and customs, such as going through distributors to purchase large volumes and reduce the need to coordinate with multiple vendors, create efficiencies and savings for purchasers. However, these same practices can limit the effectiveness of state law, such as price preference policies that mandate local purchasing.
  • Policies such as small- and micro-purchase thresholds can simplify procurement of locally grown foods. However, their utility is limited when institutional logistics – including around staffing, processing, and distribution – make it impractical for institutions to utilize these policies. Moreover, demand-side local procurement initiatives are not always applicable to the capacity and operational realities of small scale producers, processors, and distributors in our region.
  • In the absence of impactful state law, state agency advocates, institutions, community groups, and local government are advancing innovative strategies to increase institutional procurement of local food.

Project Timeline

Policy snapshots summarizing our analysis of local food procurement policy for each of the six New England states will be completed soon. FINE and CAFS will host a virtual conversation to discuss initial snapshot findings, answer questions, and solicit input on April 23. In addition to the snapshots, FINE and CAFS will produce a report evaluating regional trends by the end of Summer 2019. Once complete, FINE and CAFS will host a webinar to share research findings and will make all materials available on the FINE and CAFS websites.

We welcome insights into how state institutional local procurement laws affect you, and any other input you have to share on the project.







Contact the Project Team

Alyssa Hartman
CAFS Student Clinician, Vermont Law School

Erica Morrell
Policy Fellow, Farm to Institution New England

Peter Allison
Executive Director, Farm to Institution New England

Lizzie Fainberg
CAFS Student Clinician, Vermont Law School

Sophia Kruszewski
CAFS Clinic Director, Vermont Law School