Produce Purchased from Farmers as Part of Northeast WI Food Hub
ThedaCare hospital visitors, employees and patients can now eat locally grown fresh produce as part of the health system’s participation in the Northeast WI Food Hub.
The initiative started earlier this year and links producers in Brown, Outagamie and Winnebago counties to institutional food buyers. The Northeast WI Food Hub is a collaborative effort among Goodwill Grows, Live54218 in Brown County and re:TH!NK in Winnebago County.
ThedaCare sustainability coordinator Maggie Hintz-Polzin said ThedaCare buys food through the NEW Food HUB for use in its hospital cafeterias. Last month, ThedaCare bought 72 pounds of fresh organic strawberries from Wolf River Farms LLC in Clintonville to use at Appleton Medical Center and Theda Clark Medical Center in Neenah. ThedaCare also bought organic sugar snap peas from local farms and will buy more produce as it becomes available, she said.
“ThedaCare is purchasing food through the Northeast WI Food Hub in order to ensure that we’re not only improving the health of our people – patients, employees and visitors – but also the health of the economy and planet,” said Hintz-Polzin, who is also a registered nurse. “When we buy local food, the travel time is significantly reduced, which leads to lower carbon emissions. We are also supporting local farmers, which also helps the local economy.”
Alex Tyink of Goodwill Grows, a program of Menasha-based Goodwill Industries of North Central Wisconsin, said one of the Food Hub’s goals is to increase demand for locally grown food while also targeting food deserts, low-income populations and food insecurity. The initiative also cuts out “the middle men” of the traditional food system, which means more money ends up in the pockets of the local farming community, he added.
“We hope we will increase the connections between community buyers and sellers of local foods in a way that increases food security for all community members,” Tyink said. “We also hope that by enhancing the demand for local food products, farmers will expand their production of fruits, vegetables and processed local food products to make their farm, and their families, more self-sufficient.”
The Northeast WI Food Hub is online and allows buyers and sellers to connect electronically. ThedaCare cafeteria staff members go to the website and view what’s available and makes purchasing decisions, Hintz-Polzin said. In addition to using food from the Food Hub, ThedaCare is buying produce grown at Riverview Gardens in Appleton for use at Theda Clark.
“Since the food gets to people more quickly, it has a higher nutrition content and also tastes better,” she said. “ThedaCare is committed to the success of this partnership to improve the health of people, our planet, while encouraging a sustainable local economy.”
For more than 100 years, ThedaCare™ has been committed to finding a better way to deliver serious and complex healthcare to patients throughout Northeast Wisconsin. The organization serves over 200,000 patients annually and employs more than 6,800 healthcare professionals throughout the region. ThedaCare has seven hospitals located in Appleton, Neenah, Berlin, Waupaca, Shawano, New London and Wild Rose as well as 35 clinics in 14 counties. It is the first health care organization in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving our specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a non-profit healthcare organization with Northeast Wisconsin’s only level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs as well as a foundation dedicated to community service. Construction of ThedaCare Regional Cancer Center in Appleton and ThedaCare Medical Center – Shawano is underway. For more information, visit www.thedacare.org or follow ThedaCare on Facebook and Twitter.