Hospitals, colleges, universities, and other institutions can act as community role models for proactive healthy choices. When these institutions feature fresh, local foods and offer food- and farm-related educational programming, everyone sees the results: improved public health, education, and connection to community, all while sustaining our family farms.
ASAP’s current Farm to Institution work includes a relationship with University of North Carolina-Asheville (UNCA). In 2010, UNCA’s new director of dining services, Alison Fern, made a commitment to get local food into the cafeteria and information about local food out to the students. She hired Jeremiah Jackson as head chef and asked him to work with us here at ASAP. We connected him with Mountain Food Products, a local distributor with a local food program, and the rest, as they say, is history! Jeremiah has instructed Mountain Foods to always give him local produce from certified Appalachian Grown™ farms when available. We’ve also created special cafeteria signage to share that information with UNCA students. The result? UNCA’s meal “swipes” have almost doubled over last year, without a large increase in the student body. Jeremiah also credits the increase to staff that are sure to comment on the fresh, local offerings each day.
As we have done and continue to do with UNCA and other institutions, including Mission Hospital, Park Ridge Hospital, and Appalachian State University, ASAP’s Farm to Institution program can help implement local food procurement strategies, as well as offer point-of-purchase marketing materials for Appalachian Grown products.