Bringing diversity to your plate

Create your own pilot

A step-by-step guide for purchasers looking to plan, design, and launch their first Just BIPOC Sourcing pilot within their foodservice network.​

Foodservice companies that support greater diversity don’t only think about providing a range of menu options on the plate.

They also go back to the fields where these foods are grown to support a diversity of producers to source from; they know that to create lasting change in our food systems requires the engagement of everyone across the value chain in support of reaching a common goal.

A quick note: while distributors and farmers are vitally necessary, for the purposes of this framework, we will assume that the distributor will follow the direction of the customer (the client company and foodservice management company) and that participating farmer groups are organized and supported by a technical assistance provider and/or designated client company staff.

Therefore, with a lens toward equity, we will focus on the first three listed stakeholders for exploring pilot design based on their power and design leverage in structuring pilots.

Connected Markets:
Just BIPOC Sourcing
Self-Assessment tool.

Connected Markets: Just BIPOC Sourcing
Self-Assessment tool.

To create conditions for success, all of the stakeholder entities in the ecosystem must achieve some baseline conditions which are outlined in the CONNECTED MARKET: JUST BIPOC SOURCING Self-Assessment Tool. We encourage you to complete the questionnaire before continuing with the development of your equitable foodservice pilot.

Designing a more equitable sourcing model can begin with a pilot.

While foodservice pilots offer the opportunity to experiment with new sourcing programs or menu plans, they often fail before they begin. A design process that misses key elements will prevent good execution. If growers are selected without paying enough attention at the outset to the nuances of distribution, logistics, and pricing, buyers may be poorly prepared to address various internal barriers that will inevitably arise, forcing frequent meetings to find solutions and keep the flow running smoothly.

By focusing on these buyer barriers at the outset, we can highlight that it is not enough for one leader or one chef to intend to source produce from small, BIPOC farmers.

There are actually multiple layers of entities and decision makers and processes at play, and each of those layers has a set of base conditions that must be met in order for a pilot to be successful.

Additionally, pilots should be designed with friction in mind. The most difficult aspect of sourcing pilot work is getting to the very first order. Once initial orders are placed, the pilot can be continuously improved, but often getting to that first order is the greatest hurdle to overcome. In practice, your initial approach may not meet every ambitious and aspirational goal of a BIPOC sourcing project, but this should not be a deterrent for beginning the work; along the way be prepared to learn from your mistakes or obstacles as they arise, devising solutions to reduce friction in the supply chain, get orders flowing, and “open the door” for further improvements.

In the below diagram, we model this approach by showing that selecting experienced growers, using an existing distributor, and selecting a limited number of sites is the most effective way to generate initial orders. After orders are in progress, and if there is interest to continue to grow the program by recruiting more and less experienced growers and adding buyer sites, those steps can now be taken.

If initial orders fail to take place, the buyer should re-evaluate their readiness based on the base conditions laid out in the CONNECTED MARKET: JUST BIPOC SOURCING Self Assessment Tool, revisit the pilot program design to reduce friction, proceed through another round of planning, then re-launch.

Tracking and evaluating certain key metrics will help create systems for continuous improvement with BIPOC sourcing pilots and programs.

At a minimum, we recommend that the client company and foodservice management company leadership be able to readily access reports from their client units and/or distributor partners that clearly show the purchases made by volume and spend for the BIPOC sourcing pilot. 

But to understand and deepen the impact of BIPOC sourcing pilots, companies should explore more in-depth quantitative metrics, such as the percentage of BIPOC sourcing out of total food program spend, the number of unique crops sourced over time, and if possible, the dollar impact per target supplier.

Qualitative evaluation is another way of evaluating pilot efforts. Interviews with chefs at individual client sites can reveal nuances about how the pilot’s process changes are affecting the day-to-day operations of site staff, and opportunities for leadership to support improvements. Interviews with farmers can reveal if the pilot is meaningfully increasing their sales. 

In addition to their ability to enhance, expand, and institutionalize the pilot into a foundational and impactful sourcing practice, this qualitative and quantitative data can be woven together into a cohesive story for internal and external storytelling. 

It’s important to note that ensuring the success of a pilot goes far beyond simple metrics. The infrastructure, policies, and commitment laid out in the base requirements of this primer are essential – otherwise, there will be no successful sales to track. It can be tempting to declare an intention to source x dollars from x number of BIPOC suppliers and wait for results. A comprehensive set of metrics should generally evolve after infrastructure is in place, and not before, so that a program can be scaled appropriately and in context.

To avoid the all-too-common injustice of requiring extra labor from BIPOC producers without remuneration, the burden of data collection or provision on farmers should be as minimal as possible.  

While stakeholders can collaboratively determine and refine what data to track and evaluate over the course of their pilot, it’s important to note that. Qualitative data from farmers should only be collected after sales have been in progress for some time.