Multi-farm to Institution is the wholesale equivalent of a multi-farm shop. It is where the aggregated local food is distributed to places such as restaurants, hospitals, schools, nursing homes, childcare centres, businesses and other large suppliers of food.
A multi-farm to institution model has the capacity to transform communities, as large institutions move to a food philosophy focused around improved health and support of the community, both from a food purchasing and food service point of view.
There are challenges with consistency and scale when dealing with large institutions that require regular deliveries and reliable produce variety, as well as a re-education process amongst institutions that are used to ordering the same produce all year round. This model requires a deep level of investment in building relationships and educating people on the importance of supporting local, healthy food systems.
A multi-farm to institution model requires sound infrastructure, including warehousing, transportation and stock and order management systems.
There is a growing awareness and desire to differentiate institutional food purchasing from traditional models that have a negative reputation of poor quality, especially in hospitals and nursing home, so the landscape is ripe for such ventures. It is a vast, largely untapped area to date.
Research by Collins et al in 2014 “Food Hub and Institution Partnerships: Barriers and Enablers Desktop review and qualitative research” provides an initial exploration of the challenges and opportunities for a food hub in Melbourne pursuing an institutional market for source identified food.
Stories / Resources
This document provides a brief overview of Farm to Institution programs in the US – Farm to Institution Initiatives
Growing Abundance is a Castlemaine-based initiative that was formed out of a desire to develop more resilient fresh-food infrastructure that is less reliant on fossil fuels. One of the features of this model is the management and supply of the canteen at Castlemaine Secondary College and another local primary school, with produce sourced locally and predominantly organic. They also offer a catering service and other community initiatives.