Farm to Institution

Each year institutions including universities, hospitals and grocery stores spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on food. What would the economic impact be if those institutions committed a portion of those dollars to local purchases?

The goal of the Farm to Institution Project Team is to understand the potential for institutional local purchases and quantify the benefits of institutional purchases if made at the local level. Additionally, this team helps connect and develop a network between producers, aggregators and institutional buyers, providing events and resources to understand and address constraints to large scale institutional purchasing of food.

Institutional Buyers, and those interested in purchasing local foods are invited to take this brief survey to let members of the Farm to Institution Working Group know what you’re interests and needs are with regards to buying local foods.

For more information contact Gwen Hall Driscoll, Mercy Medical Center – Farm to Institution Committee Chair at

Results: Local Food Purchasing In The News

Dubuque Schools serve up locally grown, farm fresh food by Katie Weidermann KCRG TV9 10/6/2016schools.jpg

New “Cool” Trailer – The Iowa Food Hub has added a new tool to its local food arsenal. A cool-bot trailer was recently moved to its seasonal home at Sinsinawa Mound Center near Dubuque.  by Teresa Weimerslage, Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative 10/5/2016


Farm to Schools Program introduces garden-fresh produce into school menu by Missi Hodge, Cascade Pioneer 9/7/2016

Local foods movement goes to school: Learning ways to connect producers to consumers is the key to expansion by Jim Swenson, TH Media 2/26/2016andy mett.jpg

Dubuque schools serve food fresh from the farm: Dubuque district participates in National Farm to School Month by bringing local produce and ag education into the schools by Stacy Becker, TH Media 10/8/2015


Resources for Buyers

New to local sourcing? 

Local Sourcing 101: A Checklist for Food Service Directors
A checklist developed by the Institutional Food Market Coalition & UW Extension-Dane County, meant to help you answer some simple but important questions about local sourcing so you can identify realistic goals and next steps. Understanding the right questions to ask will also enable you to communicate more effectively with co-workers, supervisors and staff about why you want to source local food. *Note some of the resources listed here are Wisconsin-specific. Contact Dubuque County ISU Extension for specific to the Dubuque area.

IFMC has a number of great resources available for buyers and farmers at:

New Report Released  Instituting Change: An Overview of Institutional Food Procurement and Recommendations for Improvement (2016)

This report reviews the literature and key information resources regarding institutional food service procurement systems, presents the potential benefits of a large-scale shift among institutional procurement policies, discusses some of the existing barriers to the adoption of policies that favor regionally and/or sustainably produced food, and provides recommendations and tools for influencing institutional food procurement practices. The report is intended to serve as a resource for those seeking a better understanding of institutional food service procurement policies and provide a rationale for working toward reform.  It aims to clarify gaps in the literature and resources— namely, information about food service management companies’ rebate pricing systems and the potential socioeconomic, environmental, health, social justice, and animal welfare-related benefits of reformed procurement policies. 

Iowa Seasonal Produce Guide
What’s in Season – Iowa State University Extension & Outreach

Need to convert pounds to bushels? Check out these helpful tables from University of North Carolina and University of Arkansas!

Buying Directly from Local Farmers – Resources for Direct Purchasing

What Retail Foodservices Should Know When Purchasing Produce Directly From Farmers (2010)

Iowa Buy Fresh Buy Local originated in 2003 as part of a nationwide campaign to increase activity in local food systems at all levels: Farms, markets, retail establishments and institutions. Several Buy Fresh Buy Local Chapters were established across the state, producing annual print and web directories of local farmers, resturants, markets, etc. for their respective regions. Riverbend Buy Fresh Buy Local – including Dubuque, Jackson, Deleware, and Jones County resources last produced a member directory in 2014.

In 2017, partners from across the state are convening to replace the BFBL campaign with a new local food awareness campaign, directory, and logo. Stay tuned for more information.
Iowa MarketMaker – Connecting markets & quality sources of food in Iowa

Dubuque Farmers’ Market – Vendor List | Searchable Product Listing

Buying through distributors – Local & Regional Aggregation, Distribution
What is a Food Hub?
What do we know about Food Hubs in Iowa?
Iowa Food Hub (West Union, IA)

USDA Local Food Hub Directory

Iowa Food Hubs – Resource Page

Food Safety
Iowa State University Checklist for Retail Purchase of Local Foods | PDF
National GAP (Good Agricultural Practices) Program

General Local Foods Information
10 Things to Know About Local Foods
Economic Impacts of Local Foods – Statewide Reports & Economic Impact Studies
USDA 2015 Report to Congress: Trends in U.S. Local and Regional Food Systems

Procurement Policy & Planning

A Guide to Developinmg a Sustainable Food Purchasing Policy 
How to Develop a Local and Regional Institutional Food Buying Program
Promoting Local Purchasing and Farm To School Activities: Model Wellness Policy Language for Schools

Presentations. Etc. 

Resources for Food Service – a collection of presentations given at a 2015 event at Luther College for local buyers including ‘How to Plan A Succesful Local Food Day’ and ‘Setting Goals and Tracking Local Food Purchases’

Connecting Local Producers with Institutions in Dubuque 5/1/2012 – University of Iowa

National & state organizations that support institutions wishing to change their food purchasing practices

School Food Focus Learning Lab- works directly with school districts to help them identify changes they want to make and help them work towards those changes. THe learning lan also have worked with big actors in the food industry such as Tyson and Jennie-O to reformulate products towards desired specifications.

National Farm to School Network –  launched in 2007 NFSN works with schools at all levels of  involvement in FTS programs. The network has six priorities and they are: 1. Policy development, 2. Training and technical assistance, 3. Information development and dissemination, 4. Networking, 5. Media and marketing and 6. Research and evaluation. The NFSN recently launched a FTS evaluation framework and schools have access to resources on their website including recipes, food service training and fundraising.

Iowa Farm to School Program
Iowa Department of Land Stewardship
Iowa Department of Education
Iowa Farm to School Toolkit
Iowa Farm to School on Facebook

ISU Extension & Outreach – Local Food Resources for Educators

The Real Food Challenge-works with universities across the country to “shift $1 billion of existing university food budget away from industrial farms and junk food and towards local/community based, fair, ecologically sound and human food sources by 2020.” The  program includes leadership training, conferences, awards and online resources for students, food service professionals and faculty. The real food-tracking calculator includes a baseline survey, assessment plan and tracking of “real food” purchases, which allows universities to track their progress.

Healthcare Without Harm works with hospitals across the country who want to improve the sustainability of their food services.  The Healthy Food in Health Care (HFHC)  initiative was started in 2005 and provides education, tools and resources to support  health care facilities.