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Skagit County Farm to Healthcare Pilot Project

“Farm to Healthcare” distribution systems provide healthful, fresh foods to hospitals and retirement communities while creating new markets for farmers.  The average-sized hospital nationally, serves over a million meals per year with the total healthcare market for food and beverage approximately $12 billion [1]. Healthcare facilities have the buying power to influence distributors to adopt a regional distribution system that the farming community needs in order to scale-up local sustainable agriculture. Healthcare facilities are an important player because of their significant food budget, mission to promote health, and ability to improve health through modeling a value-based food supply chain.

Skagitonians to Preserve Farmland (SPF) in partnership with the Economic Development Association of Skagit County (EDASC) is working to link locally grown produce to Healthcare Institutions. The joint SPF/EDASC program is one of the first county-wide initiatives of this type. Hospitals will benefit from the opportunity to use local, sustainable food to promote nutrition and wellness, while Skagit growers will have more secure and diverse markets by contracting with local and regional healthcare agencies.

In conjunction with this project, Holly Freishtat, a Food and Society Policy Fellow, is developing a “buy local tool kit” for healthcare facilities regionally that will include seasonal menus, sample sustainable food procurement policies and educational materials for patients and employees about local, “good food.

Partners

Skagitonians to Preserve Farmland is a 501(c)(3) membership-based organization with the grassroots objective of ensuring the future of Skagit Valley farming. Partners include the Economic Development Association of Skagit County, Skagit Valley Hospital, and Mount Vernon Healthy Communities Project. SPF's Agricultural Marketing Service is supported by grants from the Washington Women’s Foundation, Skagit Farm Bureau, Skagit County, USDA Rural Business Enterprise Grant, and Community, Trade and Economic Development.

Evaluation

A needs assessment has been conducted to determine whether a “Farm to Healthcare” program will benefit local hospitals, retirement communities, and the farming community.

[1] Healthcare Food Service Management, 2006

Target Audience

Hospitals, retirement communities, farming community

Region

Skagit County

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