Locally sourced and processed vegetables from Vermont Food Venture Center
and Western Mass. Food Processing Center. (Betsy Skoda)
by Jen Obadia
A collaboration of 20 anchor institutions and nonprofits, facilitated by Health Care Without Harm, is supporting the development of a New England Food Processors Collective. The goal of the Processors Collective is to improve institutional access to lightly processed locally grown produce, create reliable markets for small and mid-sized New England farmers, and provide new job opportunities that offer a minimum $15 per hour wage. The collective will enable processors to share marketing efforts, an ordering platform, and a distribution system.
The collective will increase the ease with which institutions can access healthy, local, value-added products. It will eventually enable year-round access to a variety of produce options, helping to move the region closer to our shared goal of purchasing 50% of all food consumed in the region from the region.
The project has begun with three regional processors, and once the systems are established the hope is to expand to incorporate other processors that share a mission to support local farms and living wages. The three processors currently participating are:
- Vermont Food Venture Center (Hardwick, Vt.) - fresh, peeled and diced root vegetables
- Western Mass Food Processing Center (Greenfield, Mass.) - flash frozen produce ranging from peppers to berries.
- CommonWealth Kitchen (Boston) - further processed sauces and purees
Multiple hospitals are participating the project. Maine General Medical Center, Boston Children’s Hospital, and Concord Hospital serve on the steering committee. Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, Boston Children’s Hospital, Boston Medical Center, and RiverWoods Senior Living are participating in a pilot project.
Currently, Health Care Without Harm is conducting an assessment to determine institutional demand for lightly processed produce by hospitals, colleges, and K-12 districts in New England. We welcome your input if you would like to complete the survey. This will be followed by the development of a business plan for the processors collective, which we anticipate completing in the fall 2019.
Jen Obadia is the Eastern Region Director of Health Care Without Harm's Healthy Food in Health Care program.