Community Development and Applied Economics (CDAE) Professor David Conner and UVM Medical Center Executive Nutrition Services Chef Manager Leah Pryor teamed up to present research, and to provide technical assistance to foster food resilience through institutional food service in Puerto Rico. The duo presented to faculty, students, hospital administration staff and farmer group representatives at two campuses of the University of Puerto Rico from June 6 to 8, 2023.
Conner presented research from a USDA-funded project (Seeding Food Resilience Though Anchor Institutions, USDA NIFA Award Number 2021-67024-34436), in partnership with University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez. Conner discussed how organizations in Vermont, namely the UVM Medical Center and Burlington public schools, have played the role of anchor institutions in their communities. Anchor institutions are placed-based entities like schools and hospitals that use their resources to support their local communities through community education, public nutrition, local procurement and employee support. Conner emphasized how researchers can provide metrics and other evaluation results to help anchor institutions better manage, market and advocate for their programs with stakeholders.
Pryor shared her experience at UVM Medical Center’s Culinary Medicine program, how they are able to help smaller scale farmers achieve the volume, logistical efficiency and food safety standards needed to serve large institutional accounts. Among the participants were staff members from Hospital de la Concepcion in San German PR, the island’s first anchor institution.
In their final stop, Conner and Pryor met with faculty and students from UPR-Carolina’s Hotel and Restaurant Administration program, where they discussed the benefits of farm-to-table programs to local restaurant as well as farms and communities, and the role of farm-to-table restaurants in sustainable community economic development.