Newsletter of ATTRA - National Sustainable Agricultural Information Service: A project of the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT).
Delivering Local Food to Local Institutions
Farmers and ranchers are discovering new markets for their products in local institutions such as schools, colleges, hospitals, and businesses that run cafeterias for employees and guests. These cafeterias may have conventional, large-scale supply lines, but they are increasingly aware of the advantages of buying produce and meat from local farms. Chefs, consumers, and nutritionists appreciate the high quality of just-picked produce and grass-fed beef. Farmers are pleased to sell products close to home, and are often willing to tailor production for appreciative customers, building long-term relationships. This issue of ATTRAnews looks at this emerging sustainable food system, where local farmers and local institutions all benefit.
In this issue:
An increasing number of American hospitals are working with nearby farmers to improve the health of their patients and communities. City hospitals are often located in “food-insecure” areas, where the level of poverty is high and there are few places to buy fresh, affordable food. Some hospitals are setting up farmers’ markets for their employees and the surrounding neighborhood. Other hospitals are starting to purchase and serve fresh, locally grown produce, meat, and dairy products in their public cafeterias and patient meals.
These policy changes are rooted in concern for the health of the community. Staff members recognize a conflict between their medical advice to patients and the food served at the hospital. Because doctors want the medicines they prescribe to be effective, for example, they may advise hospitals to purchase meat that has been raised without antibiotics. Or they may recommend multiple servings of fresh, organic fruits and vegetables and hormone-free dairy products.
One good step is for hospitals to offer healthy snacks and drinks in vending machines — an important source of nutrition for workers and visitors who are up all night with patients. Quite a few hospitals begin the change to healthier food by serving certified Fair Trade, shade-grown, or organic coffee. Another trend is to remove the fast food franchises that have sprung up in hospitals over the last decade.
The changes are often overseen by a committee of staff from the hospital food and nutrition services, the purchasing department, and nurses and doctors. The committee may suggest other activities such as composting kitchen waste and starting hospital gardens for food, flowers, and therapy.
It takes a determined group to make these changes happen. Hospitals are often locked into contracts with food service companies. Generally these contracts allow only 10 to 15 percent of the food to be purchased from other vendors. After the administrators see the difference that fresh food makes in the kitchen and throughout the facility, they may be willing to renegotiate the contracts at renewal time.
Five years ago Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C., started a farmers’ market at the hospital as part of its Live for Life employee health program. This past summer the Durham Regional Hospital opened a farmers’ market of its own in response to employee requests.
Allen Memorial Hospital in Waterloo, Iowa, sponsors a farmers’ market for employees and residents of the diverse, densely populated neighborhood. Co-sponsors include a senior center, a housing project, a school, a church, and the local emergency medical service.
The Friday Fresh Farmer’s Market at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Oakland was established in 2003 as a result of the efforts of Preston Maring, M.D., a gourmet cook with a passion for fresh, flavorful, organic ingredients. Kaiser now sponsors 25 organic farmers’ markets at hospitals in five states.
This 14-farm co-op in northeast Iowa started by selling and delivering its fresh produce collectively to
local institutions. Co-op managers use many of the same systems as large distributors, such as industry standard packaging, on-line ordering,
and monthly billing. But unlike conventional distributors, delivery is within 24 hours of harvest, so products
are of the highest quality. When kitchens order and take delivery from GROWN Locally, they deal directly with the growers. The co-op now offers
services for families, too, such as farm shares, food baskets, and advice from a registered dietician.
Community Food Security Coalition
Find Farm-Fresh Food in Your State
Across the country there’s renewed interest in locally grown food. People are eager to find high quality, fresh products grown in their own communities. At the same time, many farmers and ranchers are beginning to market their products directly to consumers. Agencies and organizations are helping producers and consumers connect with each other through a variety of published and online local food directories and other promotional programs.
ATTRA has assembled an online database of local food directories, useful for producers and consumers alike. ATTRA’s Local Food Directory includes national, regional, state, and community directory resources. We welcome suggestions of additional resources to include in this directory. Contact Tracy Mumma for more information.
All these publications, and many more on all aspects of sustainable agriculture, are available for free from ATTRA at 800-346-9140 or www.attra.ncat.org
When farmers supply their local school districts with food for school lunches, it’s good for the whole community. Students learn that fresh food is delicious. Instructors have new opportunities to teach about agriculture, natural history, and economics. School districts can save money and provide healthy, nutritious meals. Farmers benefit from the steady nearby market. School district funds stay within the community, which is great for local businesses.
Each school district has unique requirements for its food service. Because of the uncertainties of agricultural production, it often works best for a group of farms to join together to supply school kitchens. Food services may be able to order from the farms through current distributors. Districts may have an employee whose responsibility it is to source and deliver produce to school kitchens. When districts are able to predict what their needs will be, they may contract with farmers to grow certain crops at a specific price.
Institutional Insight for Farmers
Finding Partners: The details of insurance and delivery may present special problems for farm to school programs. Difficulties can be eased when farmers and school districts enlist help.
Nonprofit Organizations can be excellent for helping launch programs, but may not carry them long-term.
Public Entities may be able to provide all kinds of services, including financial subsidies.
New North Florida
University of Montana Farm-to-College Program, Missoula
Calypso Farm and Ecology Center, Alaska
It’s great for schools to serve farm-fresh food to their students. And it’s even better when schools take the opportunity to teach about where the food comes from and why local farms are important. School gardens can be a big part of this educational process. Here are some of the best sources for curriculum that uses school gardens.
Life Lab Science Program
National Gardening Association’s Kids Gardening Program
French Fries and the Food System: A Year Round Curriculum Connecting
Youth with Farming and Food.
In November, the final Fiscal Year (FY) '06 agricultural appropriations bill was passed by Congress and signed by the President. Ferd Hoefner of the Sustainable Agriculture Coalition provided these updates on key programs. Hoefner said that while Congress restored funding for programs above the President’s proposed budget, these programs have been level funded or underfunded for several years. The President’s FY07 agricultural spending proposal is expected in early February.
ATTRAnews is the bi-monthly newsletter of ATTRA - National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service. The newsletter is distributed free throughout the United States to farmers, ranchers, Cooperative Extension agents, educators, and others interested in sustainable agriculture. ATTRA is funded through the USDA Rural Business-Cooperative Service and is a project of the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT), a private, non-profit organization that since 1976 has helped people by championing small-scale, local and sustainable solutions to reduce poverty, promote healthy communities, and protect natural resources.
Teresa Maurer, Project Manager
Comments? Questions? Email the ATTRAnews editor Karen Van Epen at .
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