PHILADELPHIA – The City of Philadelphia’s effort to modernize the procurement of goods and services continues with a landmark Request for Proposals, soliciting bids from qualified vendors to provide fresh fruit and vegetables to its Juvenile Justice Services Center.
This marks the first time the City is using best value procurement for food. Best value — a method approved by Philadelphia voters in 2017 — allows the City to choose vendors based on important factors other than just price, including quality and past vendor performance. Prior to that change to the City Charter, the City was required to choose the business offering the lowest price, regardless of quality.
“We recognize that the lowest price is not always the best deal when it comes to food — particularly for growing children,” said Chief Administrative Officer Stephanie Tipton. “We believe this initiative will, for the first time, ensure that children in the juvenile justice system are provided high-quality, fresh food from vendors who have a commitment to customer service. This effort will also help the City track its progress in improving the quality of food, reduction of food waste, and increased eater satisfaction in a large number of food programs.”
The best value contract for fresh fruits and vegetables is the latest in a multi-year effort to transform food contracting for City departments, and supports efforts by the Philadelphia Department of Public Health to address chronic disease through menu changes at the program level. It is supported by the City’s partnership with the Sunlight Foundation and Open Contracting Partnership, two non-profit organizations experienced in using contracting reforms and transparency to achieve greater outcomes.
“A data-driven, inclusive, and open contracting process will enable the City of Philadelphia to better serve quality food to all residents,” said Katya Abazajian, Open Cities Director at the Sunlight Foundation. “Open contracting can also help the City tackle other key issues like creating economic opportunities for local businesses, elevating public city services, and helping city officials to work at their best.”
Over the past several months, the Sunlight Foundation and Open Contracting Partnership worked together to investigate opportunities to improve the quality of food offered by the City in a variety of programs. Their work led to an extensive plan for changes in contract language, contract management, and vendor and community engagement.
“In this instance, we have elected to focus on food, where quality differences are easily apparent, to test broader application of the organizations’ recommendations,” said Procurement Commissioner Monique Nesmith-Joyner. “I am confident that the plan has huge implications for the City of Philadelphia, allowing us to get the most of every dollar spent, and to include more of the local and minority-led businesses that contribute so much to the fabric of our city.”
The Philadelphia Juvenile Justice Services Center (PJJSC), operated by the Department of Human Services, houses up to 184 youth ages 10-20 and prioritizes high-quality meals as part of its services. “We’re excited that this improved purchasing process will help us bring the best services and products to the youth we serve,” said Cynthia Figueroa, Commissioner of DHS.
The Center participates in the federal National School Breakfast and Lunch Programs, and has implemented the Philadelphia Nutrition Standards. It also participated in a 2018 assessment to evaluate the sustainability and local economic impact of its food purchases, among other criteria. The vendor selected to fulfill this Best Value contract will assist the Center in improving its performance in these areas, while ensuring youth served by the Center can enjoy a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables in their meals and snacks.
The initiative also supports recommendations made by the Philadelphia Food Policy Advisory Council that the City prioritize food purchases that contribute to health, sustainability, fair labor practices, and positive impact on the local economy, or what the Health Department calls “good food.” PDPH and the Procurement Department have partnered over the past two and a half years to increase the amount of good food purchased by City departments.
Dr. Thomas Farley, Health Commissioner, said, “The biggest health threat to all of the City’s children – including these young people – is chronic disease related to unhealthy eating. The City of Philadelphia has the obligation to provide youth with food that will help them lead long, healthy lives. We applaud all of the hard work of the Department of Human Services, the Chief Administrative Office, the Sunlight Foundation, and the Open Contracting Partnership for making this happen.“
The RFP can be found here. Potential vendors must register in PHLcontracts in order to respond to the opportunity. Questions about the RFP from interested vendors must be submitted no later than 5:00 p.m. on July 24 via PHLContracts, the City’s online bid platform. All proposals must be received by July 30 at 5:00 p.m. EST.