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Letter: Local food's good medicine for everyone, he says

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TO THE EDITOR:

Following its mission and Franciscan tradition, Sacred Heart Hospital invests in its community by purchasing local food to support local agriculture.

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Like other large organizations, however, we've encountered many challenges, such as quantity, transportation, processing, delivery, pricing and seasonal production limits.

Hospital staff attended the recent Wisconsin Local Food Summit and met farmers and representatives from River Country RC&D Council, a local not-for-profit with a decade of experience in value-added agriculture. River Country helped us gather farmers and local food advocates to determine how to eliminate local sourcing barriers. Discussions led to planning and the idea of a Chippewa Valley Buy Local Consortium.

A kind of buying club, the consortium will employ an experienced coordinator to facilitate buying and selling, and reach out to farmers in area counties, including Pierce.

River Country submitted a grant proposal for startup funds to a new state program called "Buy Local Buy Wisconsin," but there was one last missing piece: an institutional buyer. I gladly pledged up to 10 percent of Sacred Heart Hospital's $2 million food budget in the first year to purchase local food. This commitment provides farmers a guaranteed market to sell products at a fair local price and provides local food to benefit our patients, visitors, employees and Meals on Wheels program.

Local food is good medicine for everyone. It benefits our local economy by preserving and expanding family farm operations, providing jobs in production and processing, and keeping money in our community.

By paving the way for other local buyers, we hope to build a whole new economic engine to benefit the local economy. Someday, with the participation of other regional hospitals, universities and even public schools, this consortium can help create a region with a sustainable and healthy future.

Steve Ronstrom, CEO

Sacred Heart Hospital

Eau Claire

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