Seattle to the World: Healthy Food in Healthcare

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From Farm Stand to Hospital: Seattle Leads the Way in Healthy Sustainable Food Movement

The story:
This spring, eight Seattle area hospitals pledged their support to sustainability and healthy food by signing the Healthy Food in Healthcare Pledge. These hospitals have committed to making their food systems more sustainable by taking action -- like hosting farmers’ markets and offering hormone- and antibiotic-free meat and dairy on their menus.

“(The pledge) has become an ad hoc food policy for hospitals who really want to figure out how to provide nutritional and whole food, reduce waste, support local farms and procure more sustainable food, says Holly Freishtat, sustainable food specialist for Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility (WPSR), a member organization of Health Care Without Harm.“This is a movement gaining momentum. Hospitals want to be doing more.”

More than 130 hospitals throughout the United States have signed the pledge, agreeing to change the culture of their food systems by redefining ‘healthy food beyond nutrition.’ The eight Seattle area hospitals that have signed onto the pledge include: Seattle Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center, Overlake Hospital Medical Center, Northwest Hospital and Medical Center, University of Washington Medical Center and MultiCare Health System (that includes Good Samaritan Hospital), Tacoma General Hospital, Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital and Health Center, and Allenmore Hospital. Eight is a large number of hospitals for the Seattle area, Freishtat says, since each decided independently of one another to sign on to the pledge.

According to Freishtat, each Seattle hospital is working to implement the pledge commitments in its own way. Many are upgrading their patient menus to include organic, locally grown produce when possible. Three of the eight hospitals now offer farm stands and/or CSAs, giving more than 14,000 employees access to organic fruit and vegetables.

The pledge is helping hospitals overcome barriers such as outdated infrastructure (currently, most kitchens are designed only to prepare packaged, frozen foods) and food distribution agreements that limit their choices. If more hospitals can come together on issues like these, they can increase their lobbying and purchasing power to convince distributors to label food sources or to carry the sustainable products they want.

“The pledge creates awareness and intention,” Freishtat said. “It’s not an end-all, but a starting point that hospitals can use as a tool to move sustainability forward.”

Why it's Worldchanging:
Bringing sustainability into contemporary hospitals takes holistic health care to a new level. Through this pledge, and the cluster of Seattle hospitals willing to sign on, we can see that we are on the right track to implementing long-term solutions. Not only are hospitals helping patients take responsibility for their well-being into their own hands by encouraging a healthy lifestyle; they are also promoting practices that preserve the health of the environment, which helps all of us live better lives.

Photo credit: Flickr User Maggiefcf, Creative Commons License.


This post is part of the series, "Seattle to the World: 100 Best Innovations from the Emerald City."

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