Scaling Up Local Foods & Tapping the Institutional Market

“Farm to Table” is the motto for many local food efforts. However, relying on direct sales at roadside stands and farmers markets often do not supply many farmers with a sustainable income. Many food system experts have advocated that for the local foods movement to achieve true success both economically and equitably, then local food systems need to tap into the institutional market where food will travel not only to tables in local homes, but also the tables at local schools, restaurants, hospitals, nursing homes, and other institutions.

This type of operation carries greater financial security and rewards but also brings along unique challenges. Scaling up and/or entering the institutional market may not always be the goal of every farmer, but for those that are considering this step from a small scale to mid-scale operation, the following reports, projects and events will hopefully prove insightful and helpful.

SARE has a wide array of info and resources on scaling up. visit http://www.northcentralsare.org/About-Us/Regional-Initiatives/Scaling-Up-Local-Food

The Institutional Food Market Coalition (IFM) facilitates local food sales by connecting large volume buyers, distributors, farmers, and local food businesses (value added foods) through our meetings, website, E-News, and technical assistance. IFM does not handle product. Institutional buyers include hospitals, hotels, conference centers, correctional facilities, retirement communities, private corporations, universities, and others. Here is a list of many Wisconsin institutions we have already reached out to.

Using a Supply Chain Analysis to Assess the Sustainability of Farm-to-Institution Programs, by Gail Feenstra, Patricia Allen, Shermain Hardesty, Jeri Ohmart, and Jan Perez

Acting Collectively to Develop Mid-Scale Food Value Chains, by Larry Lev and G. W. Stevenson

Scaling Up: Meeting the Demand for Local Food, by Lindsey Day Farnsworth, Brent McCown, Michelle Miller and Anne Pfeiffer

UWEX and CIAS Distribution Models for Local Food with national map of distributors

Scaling Up Local Food: Investing in Farm & Food Systems Infrastructure in the Pioneer Valley, by Margaret Christie, Jessica Cook and Sam Stegeman

Learning from Co-op Closure – Lessons for others pursuing institutional market by Margaret Bau and the WLFN 2012 Summit presentation by Margaret Bau and Courtney Berner

Fresh Food Distribution Models for the Greater Los Angeles Region – Barriers and Opportunities to Facilitate and Scale Up the Distribution of Fresh Fruits and Vegetables, by Vanessa Zajfen

Scaling Up Local Foods: West Central Minnesota Institutional Market Study, by Sarah Goodspeed

Moving Food Along the Value Chain: Innovations in Regional Food Distribution, by Adam Diamond and James Barham

USDA’s Regional Food Hub Resource Guide, by James Barham, Debra Tropp, Kathleen Enterline, Jeff Farbman, John Fisk, and Stacia Kiraly

USDA presentation on Regional Food Hubs,

Moving local food through conventional food system infrastructure: Value chain framework comparisons and insights, by J. Dara Bloom and C. Clare Hinrichs

Food System Infrastructure: Michigan Good Food Work Group Report Series, by Patty Cantrell, Russ Lewis and Contributors

Scaling-up Connections between Regional Ohio Specialty Crop Producers and Local Markets: Distribution as the Missing Link, by Jill K. Clark, Shoshanah Inwood and Jeff S. Sharp

Scaling-Up: Perspectives from Growers and Buyers on Barriers and Benefits to Wholesale Marketing of Local Fruits and Vegetables, by Sally Worley and Marc Strobbe

Southern Wisconsin Food Hub Feasibility Study, by Dane County Planning and Development Department

However, there are many other great projects happening around the US and in Wisconsin such as Fifth Season Cooperative in Viroqua, Northwest Wisconsin Regional Food Network’s (NWRFN) Institutional Buyers Club, and the many Wisconsin university and technical college campuses that are starting to source more local foods.

If you know of others, please tell us about them in the comments section. Thanks!

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