In collaboration with three hospital systems and numerous farmers, IATP identified barriers to and opportunities for hospitals and hospital systems to become a growing market for sustainable farmers and ranchers. While significant barriers certainly do exist, we identified numerous strategies farmers and hospitals can use to increase hospital purchases of local and sustainable food, and there is evidence of strong interest on both sides. We produced educational resources for both our specific hospital partners and more broadly applicable tools that can be used by any hospital, hospital system or farmer interested in accessing this growing market.
The long-term outcome of this project will be that hospitals and hospital systems will become a growing market for sustainable farmers and ranchers—a market that is both significant in size and straightforward for farmers and ranchers to access. (This is also means that in the long term, hospitals will be able to structure their food sourcing contracts in a way that allows them to maximize their purchases of local, sustainably produced food.)
This project contributed to this outcome in the short term by (1) increasing knowledge among hospitals and health care purchasing officials about steps they need to take to increase their purchases of local, sustainably produced food (including changes that may need to be made to purchasing contracts and agreements); and (2) increasing knowledge among farmers about how to access the hospital market and create a fair, sustainable and successful purchasing relationship.
The intermediate outcome of this project will be that hospitals increase their purchases of sustainable, local food, and that farmers will increase their sales to hospitals. Because of the complex nature of food sourcing contracts, we anticipated that in some cases increased sales achieved in the intermediate term may be limited by these agreements. Thus, an additional important intermediate outcome will be that hospital participants will begin to take steps as necessary toward adapting their purchasing guidelines and contracts to allow for increased purchases of local, sustainable food. (This may include taking steps to adapt current contracts, but more likely will be in the form of planning how they will change the next round or renewal of the contracts.)
The audience for the project was two-fold. First, local farmers who produce food sustainably will use our information and resources to learn about and access a sizable new potential market. Second, hospitals will use our information and resources to more easily and effectively meet their internal goals for increasing the sustainability of their food purchasing.