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Local Produce Promotes Health, Economic Well-Being and Sustainable Agriculture

Staff Perspective Justin Watkins Grace Streltzov

Justin and Grace here combining forces to talk about anchor strategies, which is a framework for building health and wealth in socially disadvantaged neighborhoods. Across the country, hospitals and health systems are using their economic power to improve community well-being. These large place-based enterprises, also known as “anchor institutions”, are using their resources to create economic opportunities for excluded and low-income residents through inclusive workforce programs, equitable procurement policies, sustainability efforts and mission-aligned investments. One of the anchor strategies we are most excited about is local food procurement.

Our local schools were early adopters of anchor strategies. Get Healthy SMC works closely with the Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF) to improve school nutrition while at the same time supporting local agricultural producers. This Farm to School initiative supports childhood nutrition by teaching students about the importance of including fruits and vegetables, showing them where the food comes from, and exposing them to new foods in school meal programs. Get Healthy SMC has partnered with CAFF to support local school districts with purchasing local, seasonal produce for their meal programs, as well as crafting bid proposals that prioritize local produce from small farmers. CAFF is developing an electronic bid generator that allows districts and other large institutions to streamline the bid process to and expand the number of institutions purchasing local produce. By leveraging their large contracts, these institutions can ensure their purchasing supports small, local farmers.

Food procurement is just one of the many resources we are harnessing to build financial security for all community members. Last year, County Health joined the Healthcare Anchor Network, which consists of hospitals from around the country advancing inclusive hiring and purchasing practices. Here in the Bay Area, we are sharing learnings from our farm to cafeteria work with regional anchors. Get Healthy SMC is also partnering with Renaissance Mid-Peninsula to learn how local institutions can better support underrepresented entrepreneurs and working with Emergency Medical Services Corps to help young men from socially disadvantaged communities enter the healthcare and emergency response fields. Want to learn more? Contact Justin Watkins ( or Grace Streltzov ( with any questions about these promising strategies to ensure all San Mateo County residents are financially secure and healthy.