Saturday, November 28, 2015

An Action Plan for Healthier Farms and People in New Mexico

New Mexico faces a stark paradox: ranking close to the top of the list in food insecurity and child and senior hunger, while about one-quarter of our population suffers from obesity and numerous diet-related chronic diseases. Public meal programs are critical opportunities for addressing the health and well-being of New Mexicans and there is real promise for those fruits and vegetables to be provided by New Mexico growers. -from The Power of Public Procurement: An Action Plan for Healthier Farms and People in New Mexico, September 2014
Cover: Seed Art Mural, Bernalillo County Youth Detention Center
Photo Courtesy of: Jade Leyva, Curator for SEEDS:A Collective Voice Multimedia
Exhibits, Community Seed Mural Projects Co-Artist & Coordinator

Over the past week we published blog posts on the links between health and hunger from the Bread for the World Institute, New Mexico Voices for Children and and First Choice Community Health Care. An important aspect of providing healthy food to the population, particularly low-income communities, is to ensure that fruits and vegetables are available at affordable levels. The produce does not need to be trucked from California. Rather, there is an abundance locally.

A little more than a year ago (in September 2014), Farm to Table and New Mexico State University (via the Department of Agricultural Economics and Agricultural Business, the Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences and half a dozen agricultural extension offices) published a report that attempts to identify and understand the potential and current barriers that New Mexico farmers and New Mexico’s public institutions face when trying to sell and purchase locally grown fruits and vegetables for their respective meal programs.

The report, entitled The Power of Public Procurement: An Action Plan for Healthier Farms and People in New Mexico, recognizes that a potentially significant market exists for the sale of New Mexico grown produce to the State’s public institutions. This is particularly true for the school districts’ food service programs.

"A large, and until recently, untapped, commercial exchange may be fostered between fruit and vegetable growers and the public officials who administer the procure-ment systems of public institutions," researchers said in the executive summary of the report. "Yet, practicalities and barriers currently impede the process."

The authors of the report make a number of recommendations at various agency and inter-agency levels, placing a strong emphasis on schools, but also on senior centers, state corrections institutions, and farming and agriculture.  Read the executive summary and the full report.

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