The path a fish stick takes from Gloucester to a BPS kid at lunch could change under proposal passed by the City Council

The Boston City Council today approved a measure that would require city agencies, such as Boston Public Schools, to pay more attention to where the food they buy comes from and how it's prepared.

The Good Food Purchasing Effort proposal, which now goes to Mayor Walsh for his signature would require city departments to make efforts to increase the local content of food purchases - and to take into account the treatment of both food workers and animals when deciding where to buy that food.

Councilor Michelle Wu (at large), who proposed the measure, said it's time for the city to try to use its purchasing power to improve the food that it serves - as well as do what it can to improve the food industry, which she said is rife with everything from poor treatment of migrant workers on farms and in factories to the poor treatment of animals.

At the same time, encouraging local, even urban, agriculture can mean fresher food and a reduction in environmental impacts from shipping stuff across the country.

She said BPS alone spends $18 million a year on food purchases.

She pointed to the lowly fish stick as an example of how the city should be working to make things better. BPS's fish sticks come from boats based in Gloucester, where a company chops up the fish and creates fish-stick-shaped frozen things that it ships to a non-profit concern in Boston for cooking into the breaded fish sticks we all know.

But instead of that facility shipping the fish sticks to BPS, it sends them down to a factory in Connecticut for placement in sealed plastic meal trays that are then shipped back to Boston and, finally, to BPS, which then delivers them to local meals for heating and eating.

Wu added that if the ordinance goes into effect, the city could try to get local colleges and hospitals - which also make large purchases of food each year - to join in.

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Comments

Out of touch

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I presume BPS is buying the most affordable food it can. The fish stick formed in Boston instead of CT is going to be more expensive. Where is that money coming from?

It'd be wonderful if everything BPS kids ate came from right here in Boston, but that's not how modern food production (or anything production) works.

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I'd prefer

I presume BPS is buying the most affordable food it can.

I'd prefer that BPS seek the best overall value rather than the lowest price.

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Not so easy

Common story: Governments create a bunch of restrictions and requirements with the goal of promoting minority, local, or otherwise worthy businesses. But the complexity of these requirements mean that small companies don't have the resources to handle the reporting so they skip the bid. And then the job goes to the same big companies which now charge even more for the product since they need to hire "compliance and reporting" employees. (Plus, they know they have even less competition.)

It's the classic case of good intentions failing to solve a problem and having the opposite affect from what's intended.

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Like the aid shipments to Puerto Rico

Only US flagged ships could be used so basically it's a policy which makes life more expensive to benefit rent seeking companies with political access.

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Well yeah its going to be more expensive

a reduction in environmental impacts from shipping stuff across the country.

That what happens when you being to address the environmental impact of things that have been externalizing those impacts. It costs more but comes with a larger benefit to society.

Not to mention that it attempts to address the welfare of both animals and the workers preparing the food. Far from out of touch.

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fish

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But really, if you care about the environment why are you eating fish in the first place?

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Cheaper to buy fresh food

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Several districts across the country have discovered that buying food and preparing it beats nuking fish sticks anyway - for price, nutrition, everything.

Sorry, but cheap food isn't cheap - more profit for the companies that make the crap, but actually pricier than hiring actual cooks.

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Really?

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Examples? Citations?

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Nothing is cheap

Good food isn't cheap, good teachers aren't cheap, good school supplies aren't cheap, and well maintained buildings aren't cheap.

But as soon as schools ask for more funding, everyone rags on them for wasting money.

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Gardens at BPS schools

would allow BPS students to grow what they eat. FFS, Dorchester used to be a farming town. The first apple domesticated in America was the Roxbury Russet apple.

Or, I dunno give the bid to Maria's Subs in Scituate or something. Or any of those last four fishermen left.

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Easier said than done

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Remember, this is New England - school's out for summer before most crops are ready for harvest. It CAN be done (the elementary school in my town has a garden and chickens and sells produce and eggs), but it requires involvement over the summer.

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Oh, we care

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We just keep getting told by people like you that the health of our kids doesn't matter.

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Sure

You're the kind of people who make broad assumptions about what the priorities are of parents you don't know from neighborhoods you don't live in. It's not *that* rare...

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*whispers*

Dorchester is a neighborhood in Boston.

The "B" in BPS stands for "Boston."

Besides, everyone knows Dorchester is the real capital of Boston.

I just wonder if anyone ever takes this U-Hub Comment Angst to real life forums.

You know, where you have a better chance to be heard and engage with the concerns of fellow Boston community members.

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welll

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wow i wonder if poor nutrition is at all related to poor school performance

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I bet

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I bet they are Gorton's Fish Sticks.

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Or maybe Mrs. Paul

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I always laugh recalling a skit on the old Big Mattress show on WBCN where they referred to Mrs. Paul's Home for Battered Fish.

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LOL

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Mrs Pauls is based in NJ FYI.. Only Gortons is based in Gloucester.

I also laugh at a part of Designing Women. Bernice talked about her issues with hot flashes with menopause. She says "I used to hang out in the frozen section at the Winn Dixie. Me and Mrs Paul had a thing going on"

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$18 million per year on food

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is surprisingly little when one considers BPS reports serving over 13 million meals annually. I imagine the food budget will go up quite a bit -- the director of Food & Nutrition Services pointed out that possibility and the reporting requirements are going to lead to greater headcount for compliance.

I think they'll be challenged to find local suppliers who can be reasonably cost-competitive and also supply the volume and quality needed (~75,000 daily meals).

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I'd like to catch a fish stick.

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I would like to go fishing and catch a fish stick. That would be convenient. I could easily get a job at Mrs. Paul's. Just put me in a boat with some empty boxes, and I'll return them to the freezer section of your local grocery store.

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Priorities

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The whole system is underfunded and now we propose new regulations to get locally sourced fish sticks, increasing the cost of the food as well as adding even more overhead to purchasing and compliance functions. I say we work on fixing the education side of the house first. It’s a nice idea, but since money doesn’t grow on trees (last I checked) this cannot be among BPS’s top budgetary priorities.

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Complex Supply Chain

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Institutional food buying is a rather complex supply ecosystem to navigate.

I would presume that BPS is a member of a group purchasing organization, which pools their purchasing power with countless other institutions nationwide. This will provide BPS access to the best available prices through their distributor so long as they are purchasing prime items from the preferred vendors that their distributor/GPO have relationships with. On top of that, BPS will also receive a share of volume rebates on prime spend passed down from the vendors through their GPO.

When you introduce this requirement of locally sourced food, all of that benefit goes out the window. So not only will the undiscounted list prices of the food likely increase, you’ll also be leaving quite a bit of savings on the table.

One would hope that the council is evaluating and comparing the all-in costs of the old vs the new but the complexities may result in some sticker shock that sneaks up on them after it’s too late.

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TLDR version. Massachusetts can't feed itself

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As recently as 150 years ago, the whole state was clear-cut for agricultural use. All the forests we have here now is fields that were left fallow after the soil was depleted and the subsistence farmers that tilled it moved on to greener pastures out west.

If you want locally-grown stuff, not just as a treat, but as the entirety of the food system for 6 million people, you're going to have to have some serious infrastructure development to make those forests farms again. That means clear-cutting and running roads and building dams and all sorts of things environmentalists don't like on account of its icky. We'll just let those sub-humans out in the mid-west feed us from their fertile fields.

Whatever. I'm doing my part. I'm having several trees taken down so that my garden will have enough sunlight to have fresh tomatoes at the end of August.

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Great job debunking an

Great job debunking an argument no one made, or did I miss the part of the proposal that covers making the entire state buy locally? The Roman Strawman strikes again.

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They weren't "subsistence farmers"

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They weren't "subsistence farmers", they were cash-crop farmers.

If you want locally-grown stuff, not just as a treat, but as the entirety of the food system for 6 million people, you're going to have to have some serious infrastructure development to make those forests farms again.

Or you're going to have to do agriculture in a way that's a whole lot less wasteful. Yes, we can learn from the past (except for you). A lot of interesting things are happening in Massachusetts agriculture; you really should learn about them, and not get stuck on farming practices of 150 years ago.

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Classic City Council move

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BPS is in the middle of building 30 new school kitchens and serving fresh cooked food across the district.
This is late-coming oneupsmanship by a city councilor constantly looking for news hits.
It's even the same issue John Connolly used against Menino to prep the ground for his mayoral run.

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Is the issue

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With her example the fish or where they plant has to ship the food to be packaged as BPS requires..which may very well be the cheapest place. Gloucester is still considered to be in the Greater Boston area and has probably the last fleet with more than a dozen boats and was chosen originally probably because they are local. Losing an account like this could really hurt this company and employees.

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No love for Matt Groening's "Life in Hell"?

Two days into this thread and nobody's brought this up yet?

Ringworm is not a ring, nor is it a worm. It's a fungus.
A puff adder is not fluffy, nor can it add. It is a snake.
A fish stick is not a fish, nor is it a stick. It is a fungus.

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Get with the times

No love for Matt Groening's "Life in Hell"?

Groening is on the double non-plus bad list these days.

I think it’s a time in our culture where people love to pretend they’re offended

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Malk does a body good

I'm a bit disappointed that "The PTA Disbands" episode of "The Simpsons" has not been mentioned here yet.

But I guess since Conan O'Brien didn't write that episode it's not "relevant" to the Boston area.

Also: CRAP ON A CRUTCH! THEY'RE MILKING RATS!!

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Kanye West

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likes fish sticks

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