Large institutions, like schools, hospitals, and prisons, are major food buyers and can be powerful drivers of the local food economy — and their clients benefit from fresh, healthy food. However, logistical barriers often make it difficult for small, local producers to connect with institutions. We are working to address those barriers and facilitate connections.
The Farm to Institution group (which also fondly calls itself the “Plus Ten” group, due to its original focus of increasing local food in Franklin County’s schools by 10%), has been working together since 2014 with many diverse partners from around the region to develop ways to increase local food procurement in our area’s institutions. They represent a wide range of organizations, including Mass in Motion, the Franklin County Food Council, the Franklin Regional Council of Governments, the Montachusett Regional Planning Commission, the Massachusetts Farm to School Project, the Western Mass Food Processing Center, Just Roots Community Farm, Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust, educators, parents, and many others.
This group has primarily been conducting outreach to school food service directors to learn about barriers to local food procurement and providing training opportunities. They have also been conducting outreach to the community and have been attending events such as “Food Day” at the YMCA in Greenfield. Their work on local food procurement has extended beyond schools to convenience stores, hospitals, prisons, and other institutions. They are currently working on furthering their collective efforts through grant writing and continued outreach to community partners.
On the left, are a few working group members tabling at the “Food Day” event held at the Greenfield YMCA. On the right, is Danielle Fleury, from the USDA, training school food service directors about local food procurement.
- Develop funding and outreach methods for farm-to-school efforts.
- Assess the needs of institutions and farmers and facilitate connections between them.
- Highlight successful farm-to-school programs as a model for other institutions to follow.
- Build an argument for local food consumption by analyzing the nutritional value of locally grown food and the soil quality in school gardens.