Healthcare experts have hit on a simple solution to the complex problem of chronic health problems. For at least a decade, collaborative, multidisciplinary research groups, task forces and partnerships have been figuring out how to implement it. One positive outcome: hospital farmers markets.
For hospitals, it’s a smart business decision. It increases patient satisfaction, differentiates them from competitors, provides a popular employee benefit and creates goodwill in the community. Some larger hospitals offer government-funded nutrition assistance and couple markets with wellness programs.
For SPIN farmers it’s a potential new sales channel. It also creates new customers because when patients leave, the RX doctors give them is to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables. Calling it “whole-patient care”, they are taking the same kind of holistic approach to health that we’ve helped our customers practice for years.
Setups for hospital farmers markets vary, and SPIN farmers should evaluate them like any other farmers market: hours, amount of foot traffic, parking and accessibility to public transportation. Some are highly visible and well-trafficked by hundreds of workers, medical students, patients and visitors each day.
Some markets are located outside on hospital grounds to serve the community as well as staff and patients. In addition to providing convenient access to fresh food, they also deliver a wider public health message. They are sometimes coupled with healthy lifestyle demonstrations like cooking and exercise.
Some are located inside the hospital and serve staff, patients and visitors. While less visible to the community, they are an opportunity for SPIN farmers to establish purchasing relationships with hospital food service departments that can tout their “farm to hospital” program in which fresh and local food is used in their cafeteria, patient meals, and catering.
In addition to making sales, you can also use a hospital market for promotion. Pass out business cards and fliers and use signs listing your other markets, website and social media. You can offer discharged patients market coupons and collect emails to build your marketing list. Do surveys to determine an interest in an onsite staff CSA program. See if there are any “health beyond the hospital walls” programs that might buy from you or feature your farm.
Ten years ago 100 hospitals launched farmers markets. Since then they have been providing proof of concept, best practices and documented role models to show others they, too, can instill healthier food habits and change their food purchasing to source more locally. So be on the lookout for a new sales opportunity at your local hospital, or try to create it yourself. Now that more doctors are recognizing food is both the problem and the solution, it should be an easy sell.
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