Farm-to-Institution Purchasing: Not as Easy as the Hospital Saying, Hey Farmer! I Want Your Goods

A happenstance mention at the Ypsilanti Farmers Market tipped me off about the Michigan Food Hub Network/Farm to Institution Network’s Joint Meeting…which was taking place two days later in Flint. Considering my two-week stint here at The Farm at St. Joe’s, which manifests the farm to institution spirit via its presence at the hospital’s weekly farmers market, this conference seemed like a prime opportunity to broadly survey the goings-on of this Michigan scene.

So on a Thursday morning back in July, I motored up to the meeting site at the Flint Farmers Market—an unexpected 50-vendor indoor market building (with an outdoor market space to boot) that was jam-packed for a weekday morning. The indoor section was not only filled with the typical stalls spilling fruits and vegetables, but food and flower vendors elevated the breadth of options akin to those offered by year-round markets in larger cities, such as Cleveland’s West Side Market or Philly’s Reading Terminal Market.

The meeting was sequestered in a large double height space punctuated with windows to the sides and HVAC ductwork above. While the airy environment provided ample natural light and a pleasant site for the meeting, it lacked in the acoustics department, so I wasn’t always able to fully make out what the speakers were saying—even when they used microphones, which echoed into the ether.

That said, highlights of the meeting included:

  • A short presentation about the Michigan Good Food Fund, which will provide low interest loans financing healthy food production, distribution, processing, and retail products that benefit underserved populations across the state
  • A delicious streusel-topped blueberry muffin from Crust, a local bakery with a stall in the market, served alongside local Michigan bing cherries
  • Stories from Flint’s rebranding itself as a paradigm of local food innovation, including the Flint Food System Navigator, Flint Food Works’ commercial kitchen space in the Flint Farmers Market, Food Corps’ presence in Flint, Hoophouses for Health’s farm to school collaborations, and Genesys Hospital System’s on-site flower and ag incubator
  • Two $5 gift certificates for each meeting participant to purchase lunch while supporting the Market (thus also forgoing the need for catering the meeting)
  • Facilitated group discussions based on regional opportunities and challenges in local markets.

The most insightful presentation, however, was the one I was initially least enthusiastic about, a panel discussion entitled “Demystifying Food Safety.” Food safety, I thought—what a snoozefest! Why is this on the docket for the day considering all you have to do is better connect farmers with the institutions who’ll procure from them?

WRONG, I learned. Two of the panelists in particular elucidated the importance of the safety of farm products in institutional markets. First, Maureen Husek, Director of Nutrition and Retail Services at Beaumont Hospital – Royal Oak, emphasized the fact that her hospital—which serves 5 million meals a year to some of the most fragile people to eat food—is responsible for keeping these patients safe. Food safety requirements—including the quality of the food supply, she noted—are therefore taken very seriously. As a result, most of Beaumont’s foods are purchased from large distributors like Gordon, Sysco, and US Foods. “The food is assured to be safe when it arrives, and then it’s our responsibility to make sure it stays safe,” Husek said. Although Husek’s prime concern is assuring that the food is safe, she also mentioned that Beaumont is working to achieve compliance with the Healthier Hospitals Initiative (HHI), which requires participating hospitals to spend at least 15% of total food dollar purchases on local/sustainable foods. The balance between these aims comes via Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certification, as Husek stated that she only purchases from GAP certified farms for food that will be used in patient meals.

Vicki Zilke of Zilke Vegetable Farm in Milan spoke next, introducing herself as a former nurse practitioner who now, alongside her husband as a farmer, ensures safety and patient health in a different way through their 30 acre farm and food aggregator/hub. Zilke expounded on her experience achieving GAP certification, which allows her to sell produce to Beaumont Hospital for use in its patient trays. The most important aspect, she explained, was her ability to write the farm’s food safety plan—which most farmers find to be a limiting factor in trying to achieve certification. Although a few food safety plan “builders” exist online, the farmer I sat next to confided that she doesn’t have the skillset, let alone the time, to craft this herself, like Zilke did. Once again, my eyes were opened to the logistical difficulties in farm-to-institution purchasing.

Perhaps in-house hospital farms, like The Farm here at St. Joe’s, are a means of bridging this gap? Here’s a timely Civil Eats blog post, which mentions The Farm and Lisa McDowell, RD, Director of Nutrition at St. Joe’s: Are Hospital Farms the Next Big Thing in Healthcare Reform?

Written by Nora White, MPH, University of Michigan dietetic intern

Online Market Now Open for Lunasa Holiday Orders

The Lunasa shopping window is now open!  From Nov. 10-12, you can order pre-sorted holiday packages ranging from all-natural fresh turkeys, organic vegetables, bread bundles, dessert baskets and breakfast items from local farms – just in time for Thanksgiving.

The Farm at St. Joe is proud to partner with Lunasa to provide the community with hearty, healthy options and support our local farmers this holiday season.  St. Joe guests can order online this week only for a special delivery on Tuesday, November 22 at The Farm at St. Joe (5301 McAuley Drive, Ypsilanti, MI  48198). Please note that there are limited quantities available for this trial delivery and this offer applies only to the St. Joe’s Holiday Items category on the website.

If you have already created a free account at http://www.lunasa.us, simply login and place your order.   Signing up for a free account is easy.  Just click on “St. Joseph Shoppers” and you will be prompted to set up an account.  Use this universal password:  sjmholiday2011.

Choose one or more of these five delicious packages for St. Joe’s shoppers:

ALL-NATURAL THANKSGIVING TURKEYS. Clear Creek Farm (Bellevue) has free range, broad breasted, white naturally fed birds.  Fed with their own local, non-gmo feed and bred on their own no-spray farm (15+ years). $3.75 per pound for medium to large turkeys. 100 available. (Bellevue, MI)

TANTRE ORGANIC FARM HARVEST VEGETABLE SHARE – $40 Stock up your root cellar for the holidays!  This ¾ bushel, organic harvest combination will include some combination of the following: Carrots, Leeks, Turnips, Beets, Potatoes, Pumpkin, Winter Squash, Garlic, Brussels sprouts, kale, spinach. 40 available. (Chelsea, MI)  

ZINGERMAN’S BAKEHOUSE BREAD & DESSERT BUNDLE – $45 The folks at Zing’s have put together a scrumptious bundle we can all be thankful for. This bundle includes your choice of 12 Farm, Multigrain or Brioche Rolls, your choice of one loaf of Pecan Raisin or Cranberry Pecan Bread and your choice of one large Pecan, Cranberry Walnut or Pumpkin Pie! 100 available. (Ann Arbor, MI)

ERNST FARM & WESTWIND MILLING CO. BREAKFAST IN BED – $40 Nothing beats the smell of pancakes and bacon on a brisk autumn morning, except maybe that of biscuits and pork gravy.  Each order includes a pound of bulk pork breakfast sausage, a pound of nitrate-free bacon, one package biscuit mix, one package pancake mix (milled from certified organic Michigan grown grains), one dozen free range eggs and one pint Michigan maple syrup.  50 available. (Ann Arbor, Linden and Dexter, MI)

LUNASA SAMPLER $35 Lunasa’s finest artisan producers have put together an exciting package including a 12 oz Bobilin honey bear, a world-class Mindo 30 gram chocolate bar, a pound of Mighty Good Coffee, a 2 ounce package of Iceni loose leaf tea, a Wolfe Orchard Michigan fruit jam and a bar of NaKee Naturals soap. Perfect for holiday gifting!  50 available. (Southeast Michigan).

If you have questions with the ordering process or selections, please contact Jane Pacheco of Lunasa at 734-330-4497.

An Easy Way to Buy Local for Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving is just around the corner and many dinner hosts are planning ahead to make their family gatherings extra special.   The Farm at St. Joe’s has partnered with Lunasa, an online farmer’s market connecting St. Joe associates, physicians and volunteers with a unique opportunity to purchase all-local specialties this holiday season.

Selections include free-range, broad breasted and naturally fed turkeys from Bellevue-based Clear Creek Farm, harvest-fresh vegetables from Chelsea, Zingerman’s Bakehouse items and delicious breakfast and dessert baskets.

Setting up a free account is easy.  Just visit www.lunasa.us and click on “St. Joseph Shoppers – click here to join“.  You will be prompted to set up an account. Use this universal password:  sjmholiday2011.

Online Order Period, Nov. 10-12: St. Joe’s guests have three days to place their orders, starting this Thursday, Nov. 10 (note:  product descriptions will not go live until the order cycle begins).  There are limited quantities available.  St. Joe’s guests may only order from the St. Joe’s Holiday Items category.

Order Pickup, Nov. 22:  St. Joe’s guests may pick up their orders on Tuesday, November 22, from 2-4 p.m. at The Farm at St. Joe’s, 5301 McAuley Drive, Ypsilanti, MI  48197.  Call 734-712-3456 for more information.  Bring a cooler or appropriate container to transport your order home.

When the ordering period begins, you’ll have your choice of six delicious packages for St. Joe’s shoppers:

ALL-NATURAL THANKSGIVING TURKEYS – Delivered Fresh on Nov. 22

CLEAR CREEK FARM has free range, broad breasted, white naturally fed birds.  Fed with their own local, non-gmo feed and bred on their own no-spray farm (15+ years). $3.75 per pound for medium to large turkeys. 100 available. (Bellevue, MI)

TANTRE ORGANIC FARM HARVEST VEGETABLE SHARE – $40 Stock up your root cellar for the holidays!  This ¾ bushel, organic harvest combination will include some combination of the following: Carrots, Leeks, Turnips, Beets, Potatoes, Pumpkin, Winter Squash, Garlic, Brussels sprouts, kale, spinach. 40 available. (Chelsea, MI)  

ZINGERMAN’S BAKEHOUSE BREAD & DESSERT BUNDLE – $45 The folks at Zing’s have put together a scrumptious bundle we can all be thankful for. This bundle includes your choice of 12 Farm, Multigrain or Brioche Rolls, your choice of one loaf of Pecan Raisin or Cranberry Pecan Bread and your choice of one large Pecan, Cranberry Walnut or Pumpkin Pie! 100 available. (Ann Arbor, MI)

ERNST FARM & WESTWIND MILLING CO. BREAKFAST IN BED – $40 Nothing beats the smell of pancakes and bacon on a brisk autumn morning, except maybe that of biscuits and pork gravy.  Each order includes a pound of bulk pork breakfast sausage, a pound of nitrate-free bacon, one package biscuit mix, one package pancake mix (milled from certified organic Michigan grown grains), one dozen free range eggs and one pint Michigan maple syrup.  50 available. (Ann Arbor, Linden and Dexter, MI)

LUNASA SAMPLER $35 Lunasa’s finest artisan producers have put together an exciting package including a 12 oz Bobilin honey bear, a world-class Mindo 30 gram chocolate bar, a pound of Mighty Good Coffee, a 2 ounce package of Iceni loose leaf tea, a Wolfe Orchard Michigan fruit jam and a bar of NaKee Naturals soap. Perfect for holiday gifting!  50 available. (Southeast Michigan).

If you have questions with the ordering process or selections, please contact Jane Pacheco of Lunasa at 734-330-4497.

 

Celebrate Fall On the Farm!

Stop by this Sunday, October 2 from 1 – 3 p.m. and see The Farm in person. We’ll have seedling planting, pumpkin decorating, farm tours, bee-keeping demos and more as we celebrate St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor’s 100th Anniversary. Farmer Dan and the team have been busy sprucing up The Farm all week. So come see for yourself all the cool things going on at Michigan’s first hospital-based farm.
Join us for other activities on campus, including:
  • Radio Disney
  • W4 Country live broadcast with Bubba
  • daVinci surgical robot demos
  • Free food samples at the new St. Joe’s Market Cafe
  • and More!

Returning to Our Roots

A horse-drawn plow tills the first soil of the Farm @ St. Joe's

On April 14, 2010 a horse-drawn plow broke ground on the first four acres of The Farm at St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor. Volunteers constructed the first 30’x 96’ hoop house in April and the second hoop house will be added in September. The hoop houses allow crops to grow year-round and sold at the hospital’s weekly Farmers’ Market.

The Farmers’ Market
The first Farmers’ Market at St. Joe’s was held July 14. The market sold out in 20 minutes! Along with produce from The Farm at St. Joe’s, produce from other local farms is also sold at the market held in the St. Joseph Mercy Hospital lobby in Ann Arbor, Mich. Left over produce from the market is donated to Food Gatherers.

Local Honey Project Partner

Honey is harvested from a bee colony at the Farm.

The Farm at St. Joe’s has an active partnership with The Ypsilanti Food Co-op and their Local Honey Project. The project seeks to provide honey to the Ypsilanti Food Co-op, while training a volunteer corps of beekeepers. Local honey has several health benefits, one of which is allergy relief. Local beekeeper Lisa Bashert manages bees at the Ypsi Food Co-op, Growing Hope, and The Farm at St. Joe’s.

The Healthy Food in Health Care Pledge

St. Joe's signed the Health Care Pledge

Saint Joseph Mercy Health System signed the Healthy Food in Health Care pledge committing to providing local, nutritious, and sustainable food. We are committed to improving the health of our community by modeling good nutrition and influencing how food is produced and distributed. Through our purchasing decisions, we can promote health by providing our patients, staff and visitors more fresh, great tasting, nutritious food. By shortening the distance between the farm and the plate, we hope to lead by example and serve the freshest food available.