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.”

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