Promoting the Use of Locally Grown Produce
by Leslie Horton, Director of Yavapai County Community Health Services
The Prescott area has a climate and environment conducive to growing a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. We also have a growing population of people who value the importance of buying and eating locally grown foods. This inspired the Yavapai County Community Health Services (YCCHS) team to collaborate with retail food and agricultural stakeholders to further two public health objectives: promoting nutritious foods and preventing food-borne illness.
In addition, the team identified a need to ease the limitations of keeping fresh, locally grown foods from reaching restaurant kitchens and tables.
To meet these objectives, the YCCHS Environmental Health program team worked with local retail food and agricultural stakeholders to develop guidance for the procurement of locally grown produce. This guidance informs certified kitchen managers as to how they can satisfy the food code’s “approved source” requirement when receiving food grown without participation in a farm food safety certification program. The intent of this guidance is to promote the use of locally grown produce in certified kitchens across Yavapai County.
Approved source requires certified kitchens to ensure produce they procure was handled safely before delivery to protect the health of consumers. The farms hoping to sell produce locally were required to participate in an intensive and costly third-party certification program, such as the USDA’s Good Handling Practices/Good Agricultural Practices (GHP/GAP), which is designed for larger farms and generally unrealistic for our smaller, local farms.
Research was conducted on model programs and best practices, including GHP/GAP, and options were discussed with local retail food and agricultural stakeholders. Plans were piloted and approved through the Yavapai County Food Safety Industry Council and the Yavapai County Board of Health.
As a result, YCCHS has developed a nationally recognized local-approved source guidance for certified kitchen managers who wish to purchase and use locally grown fruits, vegetables and tree nuts grown outside of a national farm certification program.
The availability and use of locally grown fresh foods by local food retailers has increased substantially since the introduction of this local-approved source guidance, which we call Farm to Fork. The YCCHS team takes seriously our role in promoting the procurement of locally grown fresh fruits, vegetables and tree nuts while helping local farms and restaurants thrive.
We continue to prioritize food safety, while increasing the availability of nutritious foods through retail establishments, farmers markets, schools and community gardens. We are very excited about our work in this arena and the potential to further community wellness and the vitality of small farms in Yavapai County.