Help the farmers, help the economy

WellSpan food service managers and chefs toured D & S Produce in York Springs, Penn. Scott Hintz hosted the tour. 

Hospitals’ collective purchasing power has the ability to significantly impact the financial viability of local farms. The benefit of these sales extends beyond direct sales and has a multiplier effect on the economic well-being of the surrounding community.

Agricultural economists have conducted numerous studies to determine the economic impact beyond direct sales generated by local food purchases. The Department of Agriculture has estimated the multiplier effect around 1.66, meaning $30,000 in sales would generate an additional $19,800 in economic activity in the local community.

But many small and mid-sized farms face obstacles to institutional sales. Food safety certification has become one of the biggest obstacles to wholesale market access. Food safety costs can consume 20% or more of the profits from smaller farms. These costs are fixed and will be incurred regardless of the farm size, crop failures, price collapses, and other external factors.

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, WellSpan Health, and Health Care Without Harm have collaborated to overcome these challenges and connect farms to the market.

As part of this Specialty Crop Block Program funded project, several farmers received Good Agricultural Practices training and certification, a voluntary audit that verifies that fruits and vegetables are produced, packed, handled, and stored as safely as possible to minimize risks of microbial food safety hazards.

Through funding from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s Specialty Crop Block Program funds, Health Care Without Harm’s Mid-Atlantic Healthy Food in Health Care program has been working in south-central Pennsylvania to increase procurement of Pennsylvanian produce by hospital food and nutrition service operations.

Health Care Without Harm worked with the PA Preferred Program to develop materials for participating in WellSpan facilities to raise awareness among patients, visitors, and staff regarding the benefits of purchasing Pennsylvania-grown fruits and vegetables. Because health care is viewed as an expert of health, the promotion of local foods comes with more gravity than if it was promoted through a different outlet.

During the 2018 growing season, three facilities from WellSpan Health purchased a wide variety of fruits and vegetables raised on local farms. Two additional WellSpan health care facilities plan to purchase Pennsylvania-grown fruits and vegetables this season.

Learn more about how buying local benefits hospitals and the economy