Farm-to-Institution: the Multi-Million Dollar Secret

New Orleans Loses Tens of Millions Each Year by Failing to Buy Local

22 July 2019

Propeller and the New Orleans Food Policy Advisory Committee have released “Farm to Institution New Orleans,” a new report that finds New Orleans leaves tens of millions of dollars on the table by failing to prioritize local procurement.

The report explores the power of institutional purchasing on increasing access to healthy food, improving public health outcomes, and strengthening the regional economy. Institutions like universities, schools and childcare centers, hospitals, convention centers and arenas, and food banks hold millions of dollars in purchasing power. The New Orleans economy stands to gain $2 million in annual economic output if just three local institutions buy from 20% local sources.

These institutions are also responsible for feedings thousands of customers every day, many of whom are among New Orleans most food-insecure populations. By localizing their food procurement, New Orleans institutions can keep small and mid-size farms in business while supplying New Orleans consumers with high quality, nutritious foods.

Results from region’s pursuing similar initiatives are promising. In New England, a similar study in 2017 showed farmers who sell selling directly to institutions increased their productive farm size by more than one acre every year, while other farmers did not. Institutional procurement also holds potential for building a more equitable, self-sustaining food system.

In interviews with all stakeholders along the supply chain, the report notes overwhelming interest in increasing local, equitable procurement. Despite public commitments to sustainable sourcing, particularly from educational and healthcare institutions, baseline local procurement activities are essentially non-existent. 

Institutions, policy makers, and city leaders hold the power to change our city’s health and wealth, and institutional procurement is a powerful tool to move the needle.

Farm to Institution Report: Feasibility and Pilot Study