Developing and Applying a Mixed-Methods Evaluation Framework to Build the Business Case for Healthy Food Procurement at the Local Level


This case study highlights how the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (DPH) developed and applied an evaluation framework, which includes a menu of mixed-methods evaluation approaches, to help food service operators grow their business alongside improving the nutritional quality of foods that they serve or sell. This new framework seeks to make the business case for offering and promoting healthier foods in retail food environments by better bridging the goals and needs of public health and the food industry. The impetus for developing and applying this evaluation framework is based on DPH’s experience implementing nutrition standards and other healthy food procurement practices (HFP) across a variety of institutional food settings. Namely, since 2010, as part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Sodium Reduction in Communities Program, DPH has played an active role in promoting HFP in food settings (e.g., cafeterias, etc.) at hospitals, schools/universities, and other institutions. Previously, DPH demonstrated, through its research, an emerging need to consider business implications throughout an institution’s HFP implementation process. While evaluation is considered a key driver of program implementation, misalignment between the food industry and public health priorities often makes it difficult to collect the data necessary to evaluate progress in a meaningful way and to use evaluation to inform practice. Thus, DPH’s development and application of an evaluation framework that can be tailored to meet their partners’ needs and that promotes innovation represents a paradigm shift in how this local health department has used evaluation data to drive public health improvements.

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