St. Joseph’s Health Care London is calling out for local farmers and food growers who can supply fresh and locally sourced produce for its inpatients and residents.
The London, Ont., hospital is hoping to hear from farmers about their business and capabilities to determine what local growers can provide through a request for information (RFI) that will help structure a deal that will benefit the whole community.
It’s the first step to figuring out a long-term plan that will eventually pave out details that include, but aren’t limited to, the products that can be grown and how to manage orders and deliveries.
“We’re looking to build a connection with our local producers and farmers to try and be able to get more of our produce from those who are right around us in the community,” said Lindsay Botnick, director of food and nutrition services (FNS) at St. Joseph’s.
“By doing it this way, we’re doing our best to reach some of those growers and farmers that maybe haven’t always had that connection with hospitals but are just down the road from us.”
The initiative is part of the national Nourish Project, which includes St. Joseph’s FNS team and six other organizations across the country. It seeks to improve the environment through reducing waste, buying local, and better food sustainability practices.
“We’re always trying to nourish our patients and making sure they have the variety of food and vegetables because food is healing,” Botnick said. “There’s a difference in taste when you get something locally [grown]so we’re trying to have that quality as best as we can.”
Focus on local economy and patient health needs
Botnick said the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of having reliable connections close to home as the community reinvests in itself.
The method allows farmers to offer their insights on how to best meet the community’s needs, said Toby O’Hara, general manager of Healthcare Materials Management Services (HMMS).
HMMS is a joint venture between St. Joseph’s and the London Health Sciences Center which oversees the functions of its contracts and inventory.
“The worst thing we can do is create a contract based on what we think we want and it excludes the capabilities of our local growers, so the approach we’re taking on this one is being open minded and asking them about their operations,” said O’Hara.
O’Hara noted that in the past, the hospital would work with a food distribution company, who would offload mostly frozen food or pre-packaged food, with some local fresh produce.
“The way we’ve always done things hasn’t necessarily resulted in the best outcomes and this really focuses on the local economy and health needs of patients,” he said.
The RFI is available through the Ontario Tenders Portal until Sept. 1. Potential suppliers are invited to ask any questions about what the hospital is looking for, how they can respond, and any other inquiries they may have.
Once the questions are submitted, HMMS will answer it in a singular format that everyone who is involved can see in August, after which it will take the information and work with St. Joseph’s to create a contract later this year.
Questions can be directed to [email protected] or 519-453-7888 ext. 62300.