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If you’ve been in a hospital recently, whether as a patient or as a visitor, you know that the saddest thing in there might be the food. Maybe you’ve even wondered: how can they serve this junk in a hospital? The staff nutritionists will meet with patients and tell them to eat fresh fruits and vegetables, but those things generally won’t be on the hospital food menu.

Healthcare Without Harm is an international coalition of organizations that works to transform the health care sector so it is no longer a source of harm to people and the environment. They put out an encouraging press release today that reports that 127 hospitals nationwide have made significant changes in their buying practices “towards more sustainably produced, healthier choices for patients, staff and visitors” :

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 29, 2008 8:00 A.M. ET


Details efforts of 127 Hospitals Nationwide in buying healthier food to promote public health

For 127 hospitals across the United States, the words “hospital food” and “healthy communities, healthy environment” are one and the same, according to a new report released by Health Care Without Harm today. The “Healthy Food in Health Care” report outlines concrete steps being taken by hospitals nationwide to change their food buying practices towards more sustainably produced, healthier choices for patients, staff and visitors. “We applaud the 127 facilities, in 21 states across the country, including some that serve over 9000 meals every day, that have pledged to source local, nutritional, sustainable food,” says Jamie Harvie, National Coordinator of the Healthy Food in Health Care Initiative. “These hospitals recognize that their healthcare food dollars are an important investment in preventive medicine.” The Healthy Food in Health Care Pledge outlines the steps to be taken by the health care industry to improve the health of their patients, local communities and the environment. This Pledge Report details the concrete food purchasing steps these facilities are making. For example:
• 80 facilities (70%) are purchasing up to 40% of their produce locally
• Over 90 facilities (80%) are purchasing rBGH-free milk
• 100% have increased fresh fruit and vegetable offerings
• 50 facilities (44%) are purchasing meat produced without the use of hormones or antibiotics

“By serving nutritious, local, sustainably grown food to their patients, staff and visitors, hospitals are practicing good preventive medicine,” stated David Hutchinson, M.D., and President of the Minnesota Academy of Family Practice.

“The purchase of meat and poultry raised without non-therapeutic antibiotics, milk produced without recombinant bovine growth hormones, organic, whole grain and less processed foods and support for CSA’s and farmers markets are important investments for the health care sector to make in the health of people, communities and the environment.” “These numbers are just the beginning,” adds Harvie. “This initiative is not yet a year and a half old and more hospitals are signing every month. We’ve jumped from 19 to 21 States and added 8 more facilities in the last month.”

Hospitals around the country are linking their operations to impacts on human and environmental health, and an emerging part of this trend is increased attention to food service. Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) is not alone in its work to encourage support for local, sustainable food. In 2007, the American Public Health Association recognized the urgency of transforming our food system and passed a policy to promote environmental sustainability, improve nutritional health and ensure social justice. That same year, the California Medical Association passed a resolution that encourages hospitals to adopt policies that increase the purchasing and serving of local, sustainable food.

“By supporting local, sustainable food systems, these facilities are promoting health at the individual, community and global level,” stated Harvie. “Across the country, pledged hospitals are continuously working to address the public and environmental impacts from current industrialized food production practices by sourcing nutritious, local sustainable food.”