The Urban School Food Alliance (The Alliance), a coalition of the largest school districts in the United States that includes New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami-Dade, Dallas and Orlando, has established an antibiotic-free standard for companies to follow when supplying chicken products to its schools.
Serving nearly 2.9 million students daily, Alliance members procure more than $550 million in food and supplies annually. The coalition aims to use its joint purchasing power and influence to help drive down nationwide costs, while setting higher standards for the quality of food served in its schools.
The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) is among six schools districts that will take part in this procurement process.
The Alliance’s action focuses on chicken because it is one of the most popular items served at cafeterias across the country.
“The standards we’re asking from the manufacturers go above and beyond the quality of the chicken we normally purchase at local supermarkets,” said Urban School Food Alliance Chairman Eric Goldstein and Chief Executive Officer of School Support Services for the New York City Department of Education.
“This move by the Alliance shows that school food directors across the country truly care about the health and wellness of students.”
Working with suppliers, non-profit partners and government agencies, the Alliance has committed to the following standard that all chicken products must be produced under a USDA Process Verified Program that includes compliance with the following:
1. No animal by-products in the feed
2. Raised on an all-vegetarian diet
3. Humanely raised as outlined in the National Chicken Council Animal Welfare Guidelines
4. No antibiotics ever
If a food company cannot supply the full volume of “No Antibiotics Ever” chicken during procurement, a written plan as to when the supplier will meet the above standard will be required.
In the meantime, the supplier must have the capacity for USDA Process Verified (third party) for Therapeutic Use Only chicken as defined in the Natural Resources Defense Council’s “Support For Antibiotic Stewardship in Poultry Production,” dated December 2013; or School Food FOCUS /The PEW Charitable Trusts “Purchasing Guidelines That Minimize the Use of Antibiotics in Poultry Production,” dated September 2014.
The LAUSD Board of Education also approved the 2014 Good Food Procurement Resolution that calls for antibiotic and hormone-free standards in its food procurement guidelines.
“The passing of the resolution shows the bold steps school districts are taking to ensure the health and wellness of students,” said LAUSD Deputy Food Services Director Laura Benavidez. “Providing the best possible, highest quality food for students shouldn’t be a privilege, it should be a standard.”
In addition to purchasing quality food, the USFA also is working to implement sound environmental practices in the six largest school districts. In the coming months, the Alliance members will be discontinuing the use of more than 270 million polystyrene trays per year and replacing them with more environmental-friendly compostable trays. The districts are also in the process of sourcing compostable forks, knives and spoons for students to use while eating their meals.
The Urban School Food Alliance formed nearly two years ago to use its purchasing power to continue to drive quality up and costs down while incorporating sound environmental practices. Members of the group share best practices in order to meet the expectations of students and parents, while meeting nutrient recommendations for whole grain products, low fat dairy, fresh produce and lean protein that when prepared in a calorie conscious, low in fat, sugar and sodium.
To learn more about the Urban School Food Alliance, please visit www.urbanschoolfoodalliance.org. For more information about antibiotic-free meat and poultry, please visit http://www.nrdc.org/food/saving-antibiotics.asp.