Creating Healthy Food Environments Through Farm to Institution

Interested in bringing local produce and other products to your hospital, business, or organization? The South Carolina Farm to Institution Program wants to work with you!

The South Carolina Farm to Institution Program commenced in 2011 as a result of a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The program aims to connect local farmers with schools (k-12), preschools, and other institutions with the objectives of serving healthy meals in cafeterias, improving nutrition, providing agriculture, health and nutrition education opportunities, and creating new opportunities for local and regional farmers. Based out of the South Carolina Department of Agriculture (SCDA), the program is a collaborative partnership with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), South Carolina Department of Education (SDE), and Clemson University.

Any institution, whether it is a small or large hospital, company workplace, or business may participate in the program. Institutions participate by implementing at least one of the following components:

  1. Source locally grown produce and serve it as part of the cafeteria meal
  2. Promote Certified SC Grown in the cafeteria
  3. Incorporate nutrition and agricultural educational opportunities into employee offerings
  4. Establish or revitalize an on-site vegetable garden or farmers market.

We provide technical assistance on all components and, at times, have grant funding to assist institutions with their efforts. Some highlights of the program thus far include:

  • Participants sourcing Certified SC Grown produce directly from farmers or from local food distributors.
  • More than 35 varieties of Certified SC Grown fruits and vegetables have been purchased by and served in schools, preschools and institutions. 
  • Over the course of the program, 350,000 servings of Certified SC Grown fruits and vegetables have been served totaling more than $60,000 in sales to SC farmers.

It’s not just fruits and vegetables – the program began a “poultry pilot” in 2013. Over the course of the year, 113,000 SC chicken products were purchased by one school district which resulted in the spending of over $100,000 on SC produced poultry.

SC Farm to Institution is the first in the country to have a school grow their own produce for their school cafeteria (Ashley Ridge High School in Summerville, followed by Wando High School in Mount Pleasant) and the first to have a farm to school program within a juvenile justice system (SC DJJ).

SC Farm to Institution gives farmers a new market for their products. Since the program commenced 4 years ago, Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certification has increased 300% among SC farmers ensuring food safety among institutions purchasing from local farmers.

In collaboration with faculty from the USC School of Restaurant and Tourism Management, the SC Farm to Institution Program developed a farm to institution culinary training curriculum for food service staff with an emphasis on the preparation of local and unprocessed produce. To date, over 100 food service staff members from school districts and preschools across the state have completed the training.

If you would like to learn more on the Farm to Institution program, Working Well will host a webinar titled “Creating Healthy Food Environments through Partnerships like Farm to Institution” on February 17th from 2:30– 3:30 PM. To register for the webinar, please email Emily O'Sullivan, Working Well Corporate Wellness Specialist, at eosullivan@scha.org. For more information on Farm to Institution, please contact Holly Godwin at harrinha@dhec.sc.gov or visit their website: www.scfarmtoschool.com.

 


Released:
01-27-2015 09:33 (EST)