Introducing The Georgia ACRE Collective: Advancing Agriculture, Community, Resilience & Equity through Values-Based Procurement

By Emily Hennessee

The ACRE Collective: Advancing Agriculture, Community, Resilience & Equity through Values-Based Procurement recently launched in Georgia. The ACRE Collective centers on garnering food purchasing commitments from Atlanta-area anchor institutions, while shifting procurement to producers that share these institutions’ values.

Made possible with support of The Rockefeller Foundation, the ACRE Collective is a collaboration between The Common Market Southeast, The Conservation Fund’s Working Farms Fund, Georgia Organics, Health Care Without Harm, and the Turner Environmental Law Clinic at Emory University. These organizations bring a unique set of skills and experiences to collectively shift food procurement practices by Atlanta-area institutions while ensuring that growers in our region have the skills and resources necessary in order to meet this demand.

Values beyond local

We know the many benefits of purchasing local food. But, the ACRE Collective is empowering Metro Atlanta institutions to think beyond just local. Values-based food procurement is an opportunity for institutions to align their core values, like sustainability, equity, and corporate social responsibility, with their food purchasing. By incorporating food purchasing standards that align with core values, institutions can influence public health outcomes, boost regional economies, mitigate climate change, and improve racial equity via their food purchasing decisions.

Meaningful commitments to growers and widespread impact

A core component of the ACRE Collective’s work is collaborating with anchor institutions, like universities and hospitals, to make food purchasing commitments to growers over the course of a season, year, or longer. Instead of one-off, potentially inconsistent purchases, these commitments provide much-needed stability to growers. Growers can budget and develop crop plans knowing that their food has an end customer lined up. And on the institutional side, chefs can plan menus with these crop plans in mind. It’s a win-win! As this work spreads to other institutions and local, historically under-resourced producers, the net effect will be greater resiliency for our regional food systems and increased food access across diverse communities throughout metro Atlanta. It creates a model for other urban-rural communities across the country.

Local foods incentive pilots with public schools

One of the ACRE Collective’s first projects is launching a values-based local food incentive pilot program with two Metro Atlanta school districts in fall 2023. Modeled after The Common Market’s pilot in New Jersey, the ACRE Collective will provide a grant to these districts to increase the amount of local, culturally significant food included in school meals. This pilot will demonstrate how local food incentive dollars support a shift toward local procurement, catalyze economic opportunity for farmers in our region, and increase student access to fresh, healthy foods. Through this work, we hope to build the case for statewide adoption of a local food incentive program for school meals across Georgia.

Get involved

Over the coming months, stay tuned for updates about the ACRE Collective’s work. The ACRE Collective is eager to partner with Atlanta area institutions, farmers throughout the Southeast, and community partners to improve our regional food and farm systems. For more information, contact The Georgia ACRE Collective Project Manager, Emily Hennessee at