Urban School Food Alliance

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The Urban School Food Alliance and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation Leverage $3 Billion in Purchasing Power for Market-Driven Change in School Meals

As a result of this partnership, 30 million students in over 5,000 school districts will have opportunity to access to high quality food and products at a more competitive price.

(NEW YORK) October 21, 2015 – The Urban School Food Alliance, a nonprofit coalition of the largest school districts in the United States that includes New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami-Dade, Dallas, and Orange County (Fla.) Public Schools, and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, founded by the American Heart Association and the Clinton Foundation to reduce the prevalence of childhood obesity, announced a game-changing partnership to improve school meals.

Both USFA and the Alliance are committed to helping schools serve children healthy, balanced meals that are low in saturated fat, sugar and sodium and include fresh fruits, vegetables, lean protein, low fat dairy and whole grains. Leveraging combined meal-related budgets totaling over $3 billion from the USFA school districts and the districts that work with the Alliance, this partnership will drive innovative market solutions that are nutritionally wholesome, ecologically sound, economically viable and socially responsible. As a result, 30 million students in over 5,000 school districts will have the opportunity to access high quality food and products at more competitive prices.

Learn More About This Partnership

2015 Positions on Child Nutrition Reauthorization

The Urban School Food Alliance (The Alliance) was created by school food professionals in 2012 to address the unique needs of the Nation’s largest school districts. The Alliance allows the districts to share best practices and leverage their purchasing power to continue to drive quality up and costs down while incorporating sound environmental practices. The six founding cities, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, Dallas and Orlando, together offer service in over 4,500 schools to 2.8 million children daily. This translates to over 500,000,000 million meals a year.

The Alliance shares the goals of the 2010 Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act to serve healthy, balanced meals to children that include fresh fruits, vegetables, lean protein, low fat dairy and whole grains in school. We agree serving healthy meals is the right thing for growing children to support healthy bodies and minds. All the districts in the Alliance have successfully implemented the meal guidelines and have been proactive in working together to share our strengths to improve the value and quality of our districts’ meal, nutrition and wellness programs.

As an innovative, action-oriented set of school food operators, we suggest three revisions during the Child Nutrition Reauthorization of 2015. These three revisions further support school children nationwide, which in turn supports the interests of all Americans.

Stance #1

Significantly invest in farm economies and children by increasing the USDA food dollars spent by school districts.

Stance #2

Expand non-congregate feeding opportunities to increase access to food.

Stance #3

Provide meals to children as part of their instructional day by implementing “Free” Meals for All service.

Our Mission

The Urban School Food Alliance shares best practices and uses its purchasing power to continue to drive quality up and costs down while incorporating sound environmental practices.


New York City, Los Angeles Unified School District, Chicago Public Schools, Dallas Independent School District, Miami-Dade County Public Schools and Orange County Public Schools in Orlando will coordinate menus to improve purchasing power from food providers so that costs are kept low.

“The Alliance will help us with costs and quality as we introduce more nutritional options for our students,” said Eric Goldstein, Chief Operating Officer for School Support Services that includes the school lunch program. Since 2004, the City has introduced a more nutritious menu; including offering fresh fruit at both breakfast and lunch. In recent years, the City introduced whole grain pasta, replaced white bread with whole wheat bread and installed more than 1,000 salad bars in schools.

The Urban School Food Alliance first met in the summer of 2012 and has worked to combine purchasing power and coordinate menu creation and food service.  As a whole, the alliance procures more than $530 million in food and food supplies annually.  The first-of-its-kind alliance will allow the districts to coordinate bulk item purchases from large venues to keep costs competitive.




Eric Goldstein

Eric Goldstein

Chairman, The Urban School Food Alliance View Details
Laura Benavidez

Laura Benavidez

Los Angeles Unified School District View Details
Leslie Fowler

Leslie Fowler

Secretary, The Urban School Food Alliance View Details
Penny Parham

Penny Parham

Miami-Dade County Public Schools View Details
Lora Gilbert

Lora Gilbert

Treasurer, The Urban School Food Alliance View Details
Margaret Lopez

Margaret Lopez

Dallas Independent School District View Details
Eric Goldstein

Eric Goldstein

Chairman, The Urban School Food Alliance

Eric Goldstein is the Chief Executive of the Office of School Support Services. In his role as CEO, Eric manages busing, food services and the PSAL (Public Schools Athletic league) for over 1 million children in the City. Eric is a graduate of Jamaica High School (Queens), Cornell University (Arts and Sciences) and Oxford University (St. Antony’s College).

Laura Benavidez

Laura Benavidez

Los Angeles Unified School District

Laura Benavidez is the current interim Co-Director of Food Services for the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), the second largest school district. Ms. Benavidez works with the Food Services team to ensure more than 127.8 million breakfast, lunch, snacks and supper meals are offered to more than 600,000 students at over 1,100 locations every year. Ms. Benavidez oversees the logistics of the program including menu, inventory, technology, policies/procedures, purchasing and contracts. She is also the Spanish media liaison. For the last three years, she has managed the Breakfast in the Classroom program which serves more than 340,000 meals daily, increasing breakfast meal participation by more than 80%.

Leslie Fowler

Leslie Fowler

Secretary, The Urban School Food Alliance

Leslie Fowler joined Chicago Public Schools in 2012 as the Nutrition Support Services Executive Director. Leslie brings to Chicago Public Schools 14 years of experience in food service management for school districts across the country. Prior to joining CPS, Fowler served as Resident District Manager for ARAMARK, where she managed the operation of food service departments for St. Louis Public Schools and the Rochester (N.Y.) City School District.

Leslie is a graduate of Fontbonne University in St. Louis, where she received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business administration.

Chicago Public Schools serves 72 million meals to 400,000 students per year at 649 schools.

Penny Parham

Penny Parham

Miami-Dade County Public Schools

Penny Parham directs food and nutrition programs for Miami-Dade County Public Schools, the fourth largest district in the nation. Ms. Parham administers nutrition programs that reach 350,000 students in 370 schools, serving over 50 million meals and 10 million after school suppers and snacks annually.

As Administrative Director, Ms. Parham established a universal free breakfast program, healthy snack vending contracts, an employee Summer Training Institute, and innovative meal service options including cash-less fresh meal vending, and a branded hot Food Truck, increasing student meal participation by 25% over the past 5 years. Under her leadership, all 177 Miami-Dade elementary schools received the USDA HealthierUS Schools recognition, 40 district schools have achieved Alliance for a Healthier Generations Recognition status, and the department is certified as District of Excellence by the School Nutrition Association.

Lora Gilbert

Lora Gilbert

Treasurer, The Urban School Food Alliance

An innovative director with experience and technical expertise in translating organizational goals into the strategies for day to day operations.

Food Service Sr. Director, Orange County Public Schools, MS in Human Nutrition, Kansas State University, Registered Dietitian , Fellow of the American Dietetic Association, and School Nutrition Specialist.

Margaret Lopez

Margaret Lopez

Dallas Independent School District

Mrs. Lopez recently assumed the role of Executive Director of the Food and Child Nutrition Services for
Dallas Independent School District on September 1, 2015 after serving as Director of Nutrition, Training and Quality Assurance for four years. Prior to coming to Dallas, Margaret was the Director for the Child
Nutrition Program of Laredo ISD where she was active in developing a local wellness policy, planning a
new central kitchen facility and developing staff.
Margaret Lopez is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Dietetics and a School Nutrition Specialist. She
received her Bachelors of Science Degree in Foods and Nutrition from North Texas State University. She completed a Masters of Science in Nutrition at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio and a
Dietetic Internship at the Veterans Administration Hospital, Wade Park Division in Cleveland. Margaret started
her professional career at Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas as clinical dietitian, moving to clinical manager.
Margaret has experience as instructor in the Coordinated Dietetics Programs at Texas Women’s University and
UT Health Science Center San Antonio, Laredo Branch and as a high school Consumer and Home Economics
Teacher. She has trained school foodservice professionals across the state as part of the Texas Child Nutrition Training Network of while employed at the Region One Education Service Center in Edinburg and as a contract
trainer for the Institute of Child Nutrition at Old Miss.
Margaret Lopez has been recognized as a leader her field and has been invited to present at several
state and national meetings. She has received leadership awards from Texas Education Agency, Texas Department of Agriculture and Texas A&M AgriLive Extension. As an advocate of child health, Margaret
is an active member of the Dallas Area Charting the Course, a coalition to reduce childhood obesity with
a multifaceted approach and the Dallas Coalition for Hunger Solutions. She is a member of the Academy
of Nutrition and Dietetics and the School Nutrition Association.

The Numbers

Each step we take makes us hungrier for progress resulting in more smiling students in our schools.






Students Enrolled 


Meals Served Annually 


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