Hospitals and farmers’ markets – a healthy pair

February 29, 2012

Money-strapped hospitals can promote a vibrant image – rather than one built on illness – by hosting farmers’ markets.

Everyone sells food these days – why not hospitals too?

Indeed, the financial pressures imposed on hospitals by health reform and pending Medicare and Medicaid cuts are spawning thoughts of new revenue streams. 

And farmers’ markets – which typically give operators between 4% and 7% of sales generated – could be just the right touch for these institutions to grow revenue and be viewed as embraceable community resources. By selling fruits and vegetables at a place of healing, at a place where discharged patients often must commit to eat smarter and take medications in order to keep from being readmitted, hospitals could gain from a more positive spin. 

It is entirely likely consumers that shop at the farmers’ market will associate the hospital more with the notion of healthy, vibrant living rather than only as a place to go when seriously ill, we feel at The Lempert Report. Wellness is the overall theme and everyone wins – consumers, farmers and hospitals – especially if the hospitals are in lower-income food deserts.

The Harris County Hospital District in Houston is an example of just such an area, according to a recent FOX News report describing its farmers’ market efforts:  It partnered with a the Veggie Pals non-profit group to offer fresh produce at subsidized prices at five facilities.  They’ve sold five tons of produce since starting up last November.

More than a decade ago, added FOX, Kaiser Permanente began running workplace farmers’ markets for its workers and people in the Oakland area, and the program has spread to dozens of its facilities nationwide.