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Anchor Institutions

Anchor institutions are place-based organizations, firmly established in their communities. Hospitals and Educational Institutions are key anchor institutions.  There is a growing recognition about the responsibility and benefit of linking their economic activity to the socioeconomic health of the communities in which they are anchored.


For example, across the US, communities are exploring ways of rebuilding local and regional food systems to meet the multiple ecological, health and community problems associated with our present industrial food system. The role of anchor institutions — large community based universities and healthcare institutions — and their relationship to their communities and the local food system can change.  Rather than working independently, these entities can work collaboratively to utilize their inherent market position and outreach potential to foster an active and vibrant social fabric.  


Anchor institutions are now engaging in the development and support of local food hubs and supporting food distribution and procurement models that fit the local food shed and as a result reflect the cultural food values of those communities. As well, through the development of community derived metrics, anchor institution engagement can help support affordable housing, community planning, transportation needs, employee training and more.

Consider some of these models:

Evergreen Cooperatives, Cleveland
Evergreen is a partnership between the residents of six of Cleveland's neighborhoods and some of Cleveland’s most important “anchor institutions” – the Cleveland Foundation, the City of Cleveland, Case Western Reserve University, the Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals, and many others.

The Evergreen Cooperatives of Cleveland, Ohio are pioneering innovative models of job creation, wealth building, and sustainability. Evergreen’s employee-owned, for-profit companies are based locally and hire locally. They create meaningful green jobs and keep precious financial resources within their community.

The Evergreen Cooperative businesses Green City Growers Cooperative, Evergreen Power Solutions and Evergreen Cooperative Laundry offer the exciting potential of the anchor institution model.
Duluth Anchor Institution Food Hub Pilot Project

Within the Western Lake Superior Bioregion, or commons, area producers and anchor institutions convened over the course of six months. This project is working to explore the potential of creating a virtual, or physical, space to aggregate the purchasing demand of these institutions, while also meeting the needs of regional producers. Together the food hub team has created a shared "value statement".

 Fifth Season Cooperative, Lacrosse, Wisconsin

The Fifth Season Cooperative is a multi-stakeholder cooperative made up of hospitals, schools, producers, producer groups, food processors, distributors, and buyers from the 7 Rivers Region. Members represent all of the key players in the food system at the local level. They are building a robust regional food system that supports a healthy environment, a strong economy, and thriving communities. Central to the success of Fifth Season is their ownership model and the involvement of key anchor institutions:
Gundersen Lutheran Hospital
Vernon Memorial Healthcare
Western Technical College
University of Wisconsin – LaCrosse
Viroqua Area School District
School District of Onalaska