Mar 12 2019

Pitch: Funding a “Farm to Food Service Solution”

Regenerate Illinois proposes to use large hospital food service purchasing power to drive the transition to a low carbon economy while improving community resilience, health equity and access to nutritious food.

By Carol Hays & Erin Meyer

Good food is good medicine (for global planetary and people health). 

Food is the single strongest lever to improve human health and create environmental sustainability on Earth. Food related chronic diseases cost the U.S. economy over $800 billion annually and the food production sector has an outsized impact on our environment. Food grown by organic & regenerative-focused farmers who attend to the health of plants and animals, nurture soil’s ability to store carbon and nutrients, protect water quality and the surrounding ecology has the power to create healthier people, more resilient communities, and a healthier planet. While consumers are increasingly concerned about the source of the food on their fork and how it was grown, the majority of the food we eat is not grown in our communities and many farmers are struggling to stay in business. A variety of barriers across our farming and food system, including access to local and regional markets, limit the ability of farmers to grow and diversify their businesses and support them to farm in ways that protect the environment and provide healthier food options for consumers in their local area. 

Farm to regional institutional food service. 

As large community anchor institutions, hospitals can be key drivers for improving the health of the people they serve and their employees, and the health and wellbeing of the broader community economy and environment. Their healthcare mission, credibility and purchasing power uniquely positions them to create a healthier supply chain that promotes healthier food choices, protects local ecosystems, sequesters carbon in healthy farm soils, and supports local farm enterprises. Increasingly, healthcare institutions are seeking new ways to reform their food procurement and food service to make healthy food options available to their patients and consumers in order to reduce healthcare costs, educate their clients and increase healthcare consumer satisfaction.  

Systems entrepreneurship to catalyze a new food, farm & health system. 

We envision leaders in healthcare, nutrition, and organic farming working together to form an innovative sector that protects public health from climate change and accelerates the transition to a low carbon economy while improving community resilience, health equity and access to nutritious food.

To drive the development of this systems-change approach, Chef Erin Meyer, RD, MS and Carol Hays, PhD have combined their 30+ years of experience working with community food, health, agriculture and natural systems to launch the Food-Farm-and Health Lab to support the development and expansion of farm to institution food systems, and Catalyst Co-Lab to catalyze community leadership and collaboration for the development of community food systems that emphasize equitable access to local regeneratively grown foods, dietary shifts for community health and resilience, and environmental protection. As system entrepreneurs, Erin and Carol will serve as system catalysts who spark strategic conversations among system actors, identify key levers for change, develop funding mechanisms to support change initiatives, harness multiple forms of community capital, build buy-in, and facilitate strategic actions that move the new system forward. 

The Ask: We are seeking $3MM to support the development, launch and implementation of an initial Food, Farm, and Health Lab project focused in the Peoria, Illinois region and the expansion to other communities across the Midwest.