The Farm to Institution project exists to increase local food procurement from K-12 schools, universities, and healthcare providers. In southeast Ohio, these institutions represent a major economic force, as well as a substantial consumer of food and meal provider. They offer the potential to dramatically shift the local food system as large buyers of local food, thereby increasing local food production as new entrepreneurs see farming as a viable livelihood.
Farm to School
Rural Action is involved in K-12 schools in many ways:
- The Great Apple Crunch – This event occurs every fall and connects local apple farmers in the area with local schools. In 2023 Rural Action facilitated 8,500 apples being given to 21 schools in Athens, Morgan, and Meigs county. These apples were procured from Wagner’s Fruit Farm in Waterford, OH, and Fuhrmann’s Orchard in Wheelersburg, OH.
- School Day at the CPA Field Trips – This is a program that occurs every spring that brings local school agers to the Chesterhill Produce Auction to learn farm education. In the spring of 2023, there were 11 schools that brought students on the trip where they spent the day learning auctioneering skills, garden skills, and participated in a healthy cooking demonstration.
- Farm-to-Cafeteria procurement – Schools receive local foods through purchases and processing facilitated by Rural Action. In November 2023 Athens City School served locally grown Butternut Squash as their “Harvest of the Month” to 900 students. This squash was purchased by Rural Action and then processed by our staff and AmeriCorps members so the school received it in an easy to serve form.
Farm to University
As the largest employer in Athens County, Ohio University is a place where Rural Action finds many partners to promote local food growing and purchasing. This includes:
- The Farm to Ohio Working Group – Along with Community Food Initiatives, the Ohio University office of Sustainability, the Ohio University Culinary Services and the Office of Campus and Community Engagement, Rural Action works to support greater regional food procurement for Ohio University. This included coordinating and increasing Good Agricultural Practices training and GAP certification, along with farm business assistance for a network of regional producers, including the OHIO Student Farm. Another goal is to enhance awareness and demand among stakeholders by providing targeted culinary workshops and educational tastings both virtually and on the OHIO campus for students and community members.
Farm to Healthcare
Food is medicine, and where better to support this idea than in local healthcare locations. Rural Action does this with:
- Pop-up Markets – Rural Action holds a Country Fresh Stop at O’Bleness Hospital weekly through the growing season where staff and patients can purchase locally grown food in a location convenient to them.
- Produce Prescriptions – Farm to Institution staff support the work of our Local Food Access team’s Produce Prescriptions. These are weekly subscriptions of fresh produce that healthcare patients receive to help manage health conditions and address food insecurity. Rural Action partners coordinate the procurement, packaging, and distribution of these Produce Prescriptions to clinics across 9 counties in Appalachian Ohio and West Virginia.
Want to get involved? Please email our Farm to Institution manager at firstname.lastname@example.org.