Haile Johnston wants to build viable, sustainable demand for Delaware Valley’s farms. He and his wife, Tatiana Garcia-Granados, founded Common Market to do just that: bridge the divide between Philadelphia’s buying power and the region’s family farmers. For their distribution model to succeed, big consumers – like universities, schools and workplaces – are essential customers.
With 161 facilities in the region and 18% of Philadelphia’s employees, hospital systems are particularly important to realizing Common Market’s mission. In addition to their buying power, hospital employees and their patients come from a broad range of demographic groups, allowing Common Market to reach customers who often lack access to fresh food in their communities.
“Two hospitals were actually Common Market’s first customers, but we struggled to get more than a handful on board.”
Beyond those early adopters, Common Market found that most hospitals were much slower to change. Many have complex labyrinths of food procurement practices, leadership structures and food budgets. And each hospital was a new labyrinth to navigate. This highly-intensive approach would cost Common Market valuable staff time and little could be replicated from one hospital to the next.
“We needed the space to step back,” Haile reflected, “to look at the obstacles and design a new approach. Most importantly, we needed someone on the inside – someone who knows hospital food services first-hand – to lead that process.”
Common Market approached Barra to support their research and development of a comprehensive program to equip Common Market to support hospital personnel who expressed interest in local food. Fran Cassidy, RD, LDN, Healthy Food Specialist at Cooper Hospital in Camden, was a perfect fit to lead the project, having already led impressive strides at Cooper. Under her guidance, that health system, located in a deeply impoverished community, increased the consumption of vegetables in the cafeteria by 458%.
From experience, Fran understood the systems, incentives and motivations that make positive change happen inside hospitals. The program she designed, Good Food Good Health Care, is now used by staff champions inside hospitals across the region. Employees can customize the program by selecting modules that address the specific barriers at their hospital, such as conducting a needs assessment, menu planning and impact evaluation.
“With this program in place,” Haile noted, “we more than doubled the number of participating hospitals. And that was just the first year—it’s grown by leaps and bounds since then.”