Member Highlights: CHIP Grows Farm-to-Institution in San Diego County in 2015

From farmers workshops to farm-to-school (F2S) planning to a local food tradeshow for over 200 people, 2015 has been a busy year for Community Health Improvement Partners’s (CHIP’s) work to expand farm-to-institution in San Diego County (SDC). Below is a brief description of our work to grow the good food movement in 2015.

CHIP continued convening the SDC Farm to School Taskforce (F2ST) the Nutrition in Healthcare Leadership Team in 2015, two groups leading the farm-to-institution charge in SDC. Through the F2ST and its strong partnership with UC San Diego, CHIP provided local foods procurement expertise to SDC school districts participating in the Harvest of the Month program. CHIP also worked with the Center for Ecoliteracy to expand its California Thursdays program in SDC from 5 to 12 school districts. Through the NHLT, SDC hospitals continue to work in partnership with Healthcare Without Harm to increase purchases of poultry and meat raised without the use of medically important antibiotics.  These shared procurement initiatives are bringing more healthy, local, sustainable foods to hundreds of thousands of SDC children, employees, patients, and community members.

CHIP’s largest annual event, the Let’s Go Local! Produce Showcase was hosted on October 23rd in conjunction with Food Day and brought together institutional buyers and sellers of local food together to develop face-to-face business relationships. Over 200 attendees from schools, hospitals, community orgs, higher education, childcare, restaurants, and more met nearly 50 exhibitors including local farms, produce distributors, and educational exhibitors. The event was followed by a superb reception catered by our friends at Kitchens for Good.

CHIP hosted two key trainings in 2015. One was a USDA Procurement Training where 15 SDC school districts learned how to prioritize local and regional foods in their competitive bids. CHIP also hosted a Farm-to-Institution 101 Training in September attended by over 25 local growers interested in selling to institutions. CHIP also worked closely with two school districts this year, Vista and Sweetwater, to guide them in developing 3-year F2S plans. Both districts hosted F2S visioning statements in July attended by a wide range of district stakeholders, crafted F2S vision statements, identified challenges and commitments, and are finalizing plans for how to move F2S forward in their districts.

This year was one of intensive research for CHIP’s Food Systems Department. Using the data gathered for CHIP’s 2014 State of Farm to School in San Diego County report, CHIP released a 2-page Farm to School Profile for every school district in SDC. The largest 2015 research effort was to reach out to over 400 local farms to learn about their comprehensive projected offerings of 75 crops in 2016, which resulted in CHIP’s 2015 Crop Availability Chart. These research efforts improve the quality and quantity of market information available to institutional buyers, local farms, distributors, and good food advocates. CHIP also worked hard to collaborate on other valuable food systems research, such as the San Diego Food Systems Alliance 2015 survey to assess barriers to new and young farmers.

Stay up to date on our activities on CHIP’s Food Systems Blog, as the coming year is ripe with as many (if not more!) activities that continue to grow the good food movement.