Farm to Institution Research Under Way

Healthy, Local Food

Not Just for the Farmers Market

Slow Money NW research project aims to invest in bringing farm fresh food to local institutions

SEATTLE, Wash. (March 25, 2013) – Washington is one of the largest agricultural states in the nation, yet the majority of food served in our hospitals, schools and other institutions is not locally produced. Slow Money NW is working with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and a broad set of regional partners to highlight opportunities for connecting statewide food with local institutions. Institutions and their customers are demanding it, and investors are seeking to fund businesses that can meet that demand.

“I work with many hospitals in the region that are interested in finding the right food producers and suppliers,” said Kathy Pryor, Program Director of the Washington Healthy Food in Health Care Initiative. “ Twenty-two Washington State hospitals have signed our Healthy Food in Health Care Pledge, and many of them are now trying to source local and sustainable food for their cafeterias and patient meals. These hospitals want to support businesses in their communities, especially local farms.”

Slow Money NW is researching investment opportunities in agricultural production, aggregation, processing and distribution that can serve the institutional market, and bring healthy regional food to those who need it most. Tim Crosby, director of Slow Money NW, points out that private investors, foundations and institutional investors are eager to invest in this market, but there is a shortage of high quality investment deals. “We are already aware of over $40 million interested in financing our regional economy. It’s just a question of proving the market and highlighting some investment opportunities. This is what our current research is about.”

The goals of the effort are to grow a vibrant regional food economy while helping businesses thrive and supporting better nutrition and community health. To engage in this conversation or to refer a business or institution, visit slowmoneynw.org or contact Slow Money NW’s business research specialist, Peter Battisti at peter@slowmoneynw.org or call 206-395-5623.

About Slow Money Northwest
Slow Money Northwest catalyzes growth of the Pacific Northwest’s regional food economy by connecting socially and environmentally responsible food and farm businesses in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana with like-minded investors. The organization also provides technical assistance to startup businesses and strategic infrastructure, offering practical support for the growth of the sustainable food economy in the Pacific Northwest.

Correction: A few announcements went out declaring Washington State as being the third largest agriculture producing state. According to some WA State records, WA State has been ranked as the third largest agricultural exporting state,  and the 12th largest agriculture producing state.

Slow Money Northwest to Develop Investment Strategy for Regional Farm-to-Institution Sector

As part of a regional partnership with other non-profits, school districts, and government agencies, Slow Money Northwest has received funding from Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to support their efforts to bring more healthy local food into our schools, childcare facilities, senior centers and hospitals.  Over the next six months, we will develop a plan to invest strategically in businesses and organizations that can help make healthy food in our institutions. Keep an eye on this space for your opportunity to help, and be a part of this transformative effort.  See the press release below for more information.

Pilot Project To Support Expansion Of Farm To Institution Connections For Puget Sound Region
SEATTLE, WA (January 10, 2013) – With the goal of reducing childhood obesity by improving access to healthy food choices and creating new market opportunities for Washington farmers, Cascade Harvest Coalition, with funding support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, is launching a pilot project to grow farm to institution connections in childcare, schools and hospitals in the region.“As past and ongoing work of our collaborative partners demonstrates, the Puget Sound region has made strides to increase access to healthy food in these institutional settings, but it can’t be brought to scale without additional resources”, said Mary Embleton, Executive Director of the Coalition.  “This project will address those barriers by identifying ways of leveraging and scaling successful aspects of farm to institution initiatives, providing replicable models and fast-tracking efforts to allow programs to grow without hands-on assistance and developing a plan that provides strategic investment recommendations that could catalyze success within the Puget Sound region over the next 3-5 years.”

The two-year project, funded with $200,000 from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, builds on current farm to institution efforts that have achieved some success in serving affordable, healthy meals within the target market and creating economic development opportunities for farmers and food hubs by connecting them with new markets and contracts.   The project brings together a diversity of partners, including Grow Food (dba Viva Farms), Northwest Agriculture Business Center (NABC), Health Care Without HarmWashington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA),Kent School DistrictSlow Money Northwest and Public Health Seattle-King County.

“Helping to identify and address key production, food safety and infrastructure needs that will allow us and other farms to provide fresh, healthy food to childcare, schools and hospitals is a tremendous opportunity,” said Ethan Schaffer, Director of Business and Organizational Development at Viva Farms.

“There is a critical role of connecting farms to partner agencies and institutions, helping build good working relationships and figuring out successful systems and models that  can be replicated,” said Lucy Norris, Director of Marketing with NABC.  “This project will provide the opportunity to share lessons learned with others wanting to increase access to local food and provide economic development opportunities.”

“Our efforts to expand the use of fresh, local fruits and vegetables on our menus has really had a positive impact on our students,” said Tom Ogg, Supervisor of Nutrition Services, Kent School District.  “They are getting to experience a larger variety of products and at the same time learn more about how and where their food is grown.”

Rockefeller Reports

The Rockefeller Foundation has been investigating the Social and Economic Equity in US Food and Agriculture Systems. As part of this work they have generated a series of intriguing reports with the most relevant being Bridging the Gap: Funding and Social Equity Across the Food System Supply Chain. As explained at their website, “This report examines the current state of funding for addressing the problems in the food system and promotes the goals and the vision for a healthier food system. It analyzes where capital is flowing and where it is not flowing, and what kinds of approaches are needed to increase the flow and effectiveness of capital where gaps currently exist. RSF Social Finance, a Slow Money ally, managed the report. View the report …