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Farm to College Procurement Project

The Farm to College Procurement project is a major initiative of the Farm to Institution Task Force aimed at increasing procurement of local food in all Vermont institutions of higher education over the next 3 years. This project will develop best practices and strategy recommendations for institutions to meet F2P goals through their procurement.  Shared definitions will be created so institutions can report to F2P (i.e., how does local relate to value-added goods?).

This project will help institutes of higher education understand how they fit into the state’s F2P plan and will provide recommendations for these institutions to increase purchasing to help meet F2P goals resulting in increased market demand for local producers (across categories), providing healthy food access for ‘all’, and integrating supply chain facilitators with higher education consortium goals and supply chain actors.

Desired results include:

  • >50% of VT institutes of higher ed participate in Real Food Challenge, thereby measuring and reporting increase in % of local food procured
  • >50% of VT institutes of higher ed will adopt and commit to the recommendations developed in this project

The Task Force worked with David Conner of the University of Vermont to conduct initial research with 12 food service operations at Vermont colleges.

Key results include:

  • Vermont higher education food service is sourcing between 14-40% local foods (self-reported). Motivations center mainly around meeting student demand, and supporting local farmers and the local economy.
  • These purchases are facilitated by partnerships with external partners, especially primarily Black River Produce (BRP)
  • While local foods can require more labor, their presence motivates and excites staff to better promote the foods and educational mission
  • The institutions feature local foods in their marketing efforts, often highlighted by special events (e.g., tastings, visits from vendors)

Successful practices include

  • Communicating throughout the chain of command both what items are local and how much local food each unit is serving to motivate agency and buy-in from staff
  • Having all of a certain item always be local (e.g., apples, tofu, yogurt)
  • Building relationships based on trust, transparency, communication and flexibility
  • Sharing menus with distributors’ sales representatives and brainstorming ideas for incorporating more local options
  • Using distributors’ specials to meet needed price points
  • Incorporating local foods into retail and catering

Challenges include

  • Getting real time and accurate information of what is local to staff and consumers
  • Getting consistent quality and quantities of local products
  • Communication breakdowns from vendors, especially lack of notifications of unexpected shortages or outages

 For more information, please contact Abbey Willard, Abbey.Willard@vermont.gov, or Erin Buckwalter,  erin@nofavt.org.