- Institutions work hard to provide balanced and affordable meals with tight budgets.
- In 2009, Americans spent nearly 50% of their food dollars at restaurants and other institutions.
- More than 80% of Kansas and Missouri adults do not eat the recommended five servings of fruit and vegetables each day.
- Institutional food is higher in fat and salt and lower in nutritional content than meals prepared at home.
By rethinking menus and engaging with the local food system, restaurants, corporate cafeterias, and other institutions can improve access to and knowledge about healthy food choices for customers and employees.
Case Studies -
blue bird bistro Kansas City - Kansas City’s blue bird bistro focuses on organic, all-natural, sustainable, and local food, growing from a lineup of nine local and regional suppliers to a total of 41 farmers today. The blue bird’s success has shown other restaurants that they can serve local foods consistently. In 2001, it was the only restaurant in its neighborhood. Ten years later, there are five restaurants in the immediate vicinity, and three of them consistently purchase from local farmers.
Children’s Mercy Hospital - This Kansas City-based hospital started a CSA program for employees, and in the first year 230 employees signed up for a weekly bag of local produce, meat, eggs, and canned goods.
Administrators who have introduced farmer’s markets on hospital grounds cite many business-friendly advantages, including positive publicity and improved community relations, differentiation from competitors, better employee health, added patient satisfaction, and more visible nutrition education.
Like consumers, institutions can “vote” with their food dollars every day.
- Negotiating contracts with food vendors that guarantee a preference for, or minimum amount of, locally grown food.
- Adopting a local food purchasing preference policy for events and on-site cafeterias. This works for city and county governments as well as businesses.
- Working with food vendors to increase local food offerings within a current contract.
- Signing and implementing the goals of the “Healthy Food in Health Care” pledge at area hospitals (noharm.org).
- Sponsoring a farmer’s market or CSA program for employees at a corporation’s or nonprofit’s headquarters.
- Establishing statewide policies for government agencies, including correctional facilities, to purchase local foods.
- Utilizing locally grown and raised foods in restaurant offerings, and providing information about the local farms or farmers in the menu.
- Incorporating local foods in cafeterias and snack bars on college campuses, and encouraging the use of local foods at colleges sponsored events.
Below are national online resources that can help you shape your policies:
- Bringing Local Food to Local Institutions is a how-to guide that lists common constraints, successful procurement systems, funding mechanisms, and step-by-step ways to bring local food to your institution (attra.ncat.org/publication.html).
- Healthcare Without Harm provides resources for hospitals and practical ideas for procurement and menus (noharm.org/us_canada/issues/food).
- Serving Local Food at Your Meeting is a helpful guide for event planners who want to serve local foods (sne.org/documents/ locfoods_n.pdf).
- Farm-to-school websites provide research and practical resources that can apply to farm-to-institution initiatives. Try the national Farm to School site (farmtoschool.org), or the University of Missouri Extension site (extension.missouri.edu/healthylife/fts.htm).
How You Can Help
GKCFPC advocates for a strong local food system that provides healthy, sustainable, and accessible foods for everyone living in Greater Kansas City.
If you serve food to groups of people, you can make a difference. Contact us and we can help you identify local food sources and distributors, and provide additional support in adopting best practices for sustainable food service.