Our Story

The Anchors in Action (AiA) alliance is a national partnership that was established in 2015 by the Center for Good Food Purchasing, Health Care Without Harm, Real Food Generation, and School Food Focus (which merged with FoodCorps in 2018). Each of our organizations has its own programming and staff to support public institutions in increasing the amount of ethically-produced foods they purchase and serve. Our goal, as individual organizations, is to make it as easy as possible for institutions to find ethically-produced foods in their area and get them on the menu. In order to do this, we work to increase supply chain transparency, track supply chain data, measure collective impact, and build trust and relationships among values-oriented suppliers, distributors, and institutions.


What is an “Anchor” Institution? 

Hospitals, schools, universities, and municipal governments have the potential to improve public and environmental health and to strengthen the economic vitality of their communities. They are, in essence, “anchors”: they are rooted in place, they hold significant investments in real estate and social capital; are among the largest employers in their communities—and are often explicitly oriented toward supporting community health and wellbeing. Together, the Anchors in Action partner organizations support values-based food procurement at over 66 public institutions in 25 major cities, 2,000 hospitals, 7,800 elementary and secondary schools, and 100 colleges and universities across the country. These anchor institutions are pioneers in a nationwide movement to use public food purchasing as a way to invest in community values and wellbeing. 

The Anchors in Action Story

In 2015, realizing we had a shared vision and similar approaches, our three organizations came together to form the Anchors in Action alliance—a cross sector partnership to leverage the collective influence of the anchor institutions we each work with. While we work in different spheres, we knew we were guided by the same values and that, together, we could pool our networks and our knowledge—and multiply our impact. We immediately set out to assess where our organizations had alignment and where they did not: in 2015, the alliance hired a consulting team to do a comparative assessment of our purchasing standards. What they found was a high degree of alignment, with a few notable exceptions.

In 2021, with our organizations entering standard update phases, we saw an opportunity to advance our alignment process through the development of a shared framework. Led by research teams and guided by advisors representing perspectives across the food system, our stakeholders were invited to offer input and feedback through individual consultations, focus groups, comment forums, and draft reviews. Through this process, we tapped into the collective knowledge of local and national food system leaders to truly reflect a shared vision and our collective values. The result of that process is the AiA Framework for Values-Based Food Procurement—a guiding document to shape our organizations’ standards and help institutions, businesses, and communities benefit from the many opportunities created by values-based food procurement.

What We’re Building Together 

We envision a world in which every public-serving institution has the support it needs to invest in farms and food businesses, conserve natural resources, advance racial equity, promote animal welfare, and build community wealth. We envision a world where everyone who walks into a school, hospital, or university cafeteria has access to healthy and nourishing food. We hope this Framework creates a more coherent vision and a clear pathway for making values-based institutional food procurement a reality. 

The Framework also creates new opportunities for supply chain partners to access institutional markets and be more responsive to the product and reporting needs of institutions. Released in June of 2023, the AiA Framework for Values-Based Food Procurement meets the moment we are in by centering racial equity, food sovereignty, and climate justice across criteria for health, labor, ecology, animal welfare, and local economies. By coming together around a common set of guidelines and by integrating these them into local and national programs and policies, we bring the full weight of a united movement—including workers, parents, students and youth, BIPOC communities, environmental advocates, farmers, rural communities, health advocates, animal rights, and many others—to change our food system.

About the AiA Alliance Founding Partners

The three organizations that founded the Anchors in Action alliance did so seeking to leverage the power of procurement and the experience and enthusiasm of anchor institutions to realize their shared vision of values-driven food that builds strong, healthy, fair, human, and sustainable communities. 

Health Care Without Harm seeks to transform health care worldwide so the sector reduces its environmental footprint and becomes a leader in the global movement for environmental health and justice. The Healthy Food in Health Care program harnesses the purchasing power and expertise of the health care sector to redefine hospital food, activate its potential to heal people and communities, and adopt practices and policies to support a healthy, sustainable food system. Visit noharm.org for more information.

The Center for Good Food Purchasing uses the power of procurement to create a transparent and equitable food system that prioritizes the health and well-being of people, animals, and the environment. We do this through the nationally-networked adoption and implementation of the Good Food Purchasing Program by major public institutions. Visit www.goodfoodpurchasing.org for more information.

Real Food Generation leverages the power of youth and universities to create a healthy, fair and green food system. Our primary campaign work aims to shift existing university food budgets away from conventional industry and towards local/community-based, fair, ecologically sound and humane food sources via our Real Food Standards, and tracked by our Real Food Calculator tool.. Real Food Generation engages with a national network of student and community food sovereignty activists —providing opportunities for networking, learning, and leadership development for thousands of emerging leaders. Visit realfoodgen.org  for more information.