Food Access through Partnership

Tackling a challenge like food insecurity takes fresh thinking and great partners. In the great  St. Louis area, food insecurity is top of mind for those charged with ensuring the health of their urban community. United Healthcare Community Plan of Missouri recognized the challenge of many residents when it came to accessing fresh food. They saw an opportunity to provide a sustainable, innovative solution. Their solution was to partner with Fork Farms and donate two hydroponic vertical farms, Flex Farms, to a St. Louis area hunger-relief nonprofit, Operation Food Search.  

 

Reducing Food Insecurity and Increasing Sustainability

 

Operation Food Search provides free food, nutrition education, and innovative programs to reduce food insecurity. The agency empowers families and increases access to healthy and affordable food. Each month, they provide food and services to 200,000 through a network of 330 community partners in 27 Missouri and Illinois counties. One of Operations Food Search’s core strategies is to increase access to fresh foods to support good health. This strategic alignment along with the extensive outreach of Operation Food Search made them an ideal impact partner for growing with the Flex Farms. 

Jamie Bruce, CEO of United Healthcare Community Plan of Missouri recognized the benefits of growing fresh food in the community. “We love how vertical farming creates a sustainable year-round supply of fresh vegetables for our community. If we can reduce food insecurity and improve overall nutrition for Missourians, everyone wins.” 

 

Food As Medicine

 

The produce from the two hydroponic vertical farms is distributed directly to families enrolled in Operation Food Search’s Fresh Rx program. The program approaches food as medicine that has a very real impact on health outcomes. By providing food and nutrition, Fresh Rx prevents many of the health effects and high costs caused by food insecurity.

Each hydroponic vertical farm can serve up to 1,900 families per year with a harvest of nearly 3,400 plants. The low operating cost of the vertical farms makes the produce incredibly affordable for the program, costing less than $1 per pound. For Operation Food Search, this means $5,488 annual savings in fresh food costs. 

“We’re really focused on looking at local food access and sustainability,” states Trina Ragian Director of Policy and Innovation at Operation Food Search. “We’re looking at ways to get more fresh, particularly fresh and local, produce into the hands of all of the community residents. Hydroponics is a really energy-efficient way for us to start building that capacity.”

 

Future of Fresh Food

 

Operation Food Search plans to expand its program and distribute hydroponically grown produce to programs, pantries, and their Metro Market. They are also exploring potential new partnerships within St. Louis that want to support the power of fresh greens through hydroponics and education within their community.

 

 

 

Author: Megan Pirelli, Brand Content Director Fork Farms

Publish Date: 2022

More On This Topic

Connecticut’s First Nonprofit Indoor Hydroponic Farm

Connecticut’s First Nonprofit Indoor Hydroponic Farm

Bridgeport Connecticut is known for many things, such as its beautiful sprawling acres of public parks (nicknamed “Park City”) and for its famous resident 19th-century showman P.T. Barnum. What might be less known is the city’s vibrant network of community-powered...

read more
Agricultural Education and Hydroponic Growing

Agricultural Education and Hydroponic Growing

Students in the Bloomer School District are growing year-round with indoor hydroponic farms - Flex Farms. This innovative hands-on program is led by Ms. Rachel Haas, agricultural educator. Bloomer is located in the northwest part of Wisconsin where there is ample...

read more
Hydroponically Grown Food as Medicine

Hydroponically Grown Food as Medicine

The team at Volunteers in Medicine Clinic in South Carolina understands the impact of fresh food to treat and prevent disease. They recently opened the VIM Clinic Farm-acy and Wellness Market with 16 Flex Farms to provide diabetic-friendly fresh food to their patients...

read more