Health Care Without Harm and Physicians for Social Responsibility Report: One-Quarter of CA Hospitals Are Committed to Sustainable Food as Center of Healing Mission

Hospitals focus on fresh, local foods grown with fewer antibiotics or pesticides.

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"California’s hospitals are demonstrating that to reverse the epidemic of obesity and diabetes in America, we need to treat the community as the patient," said Gary Cohen, co-founder and President of Health Care Without Harm.

Berkeley, CA (PRWEB) November 06, 2013

A report released Wednesday by Health Care Without Harm and the San Francisco Bay Area Physicians for Social Responsibility (SF PSR) shows that 25 percent of hospitals in regions throughout California are now committed to putting sustainable food at the center of their healing mission.

The 2013 California Healthy Food in Health Care report highlights the many ways these 127 facilities – including the University of California Medical Centers and the largest health systems in the state – are revolutionizing food service by committing to pesticide-free produce; antibiotic-free meats; and local, seasonal meals for patients, staff, and visitors.

"California’s hospitals are demonstrating that to reverse the epidemic of obesity and diabetes in America, we need to treat the community as the patient," said Gary Cohen, co-founder and President of Health Care Without Harm. "Now is the moment for us to create food systems that build both the health and wealth of communities at a scale that matters."

In contrast to typical hospital fare, patients are offered ripe, organic strawberries for dessert and delicious vegetarian stews instead of burgers as a main course. Hospital cafeterias feature crisp green beans and asparagus from local farms, as well as antibiotic-free chicken and meat. These shifts translate into more income and economic stability for local farmers who sell a greater portion of their harvests to hospitals, a decrease in harmful pesticide use on farms, and a decrease in antibiotic use in animal agriculture, helping to protect antibiotics for human health.

The hospitals featured in the report recognize that their food spending dollars, along with their positions of authority on health, wield significant influence in the quest for a healthier, more sustainable food system. When a health care facility with an annual food budget of $4 to $7 million or more asks its suppliers for pesticide-free strawberries or antibiotic-free ground beef, suppliers and distributors are ready to listen.

The purchasing power of individual hospitals multiplies when they come together. Sixty-two percent of surveyed hospitals buy organic food and 78 percent have sustainable meat purchasing commitments. San Juan Bautista’s Coke Farms expanded its organic strawberry acreage by 30 percent this year and plans to increase it by another 30 percent in 2014 as a result of Bay Area hospitals’ commitment to sourcing local and organic.

But it’s not just about food purchasing decisions. Doctors, nurses, dieticians, and other clinicians who see patients every day are also leading the charge. The faculty Academic Senate at UCSF Medical Center passed a policy in April 2013 calling for their facility to phase out all purchases of meat and poultry produced with non-therapeutic antibiotics, and urged all University of California hospitals to do the same. That same month, nearly 800 health care professionals nationwide, including 251 from California, sent a letter to the White House requesting that President Obama impel the stalled U.S. Food and Drug Administration to take action to eliminate the overuse of antibiotics in food animal production.

"There is overwhelming scientific consensus that overuse of antibiotics in livestock is a health hazard to people. It’s time for hospitals, universities, and other consumers to stop buying meat raised with non-therapeutic antibiotics," said Dr. Thomas Newman, the Chair of the Academic Senate Sustainability Task Force at UCSF. "If we treat the community as a patient, our first prescription would be to stop producing meat raised with non-therapeutic antibiotics."

Created in 2005, the Healthy Food in Health Care Program has grown dramatically in recent years. As of October 2013, over 400 additional hospitals nationwide join these trailblazing California facilities in their commitment to improve hospital food and the larger food system.

"Our mission is to Heal, Comfort, and Promote Health in the communities we serve. We consider offering sustainable, healthful, food and beverage choices in our facilities as core to our mission. We are in a unique position to be able to nourish our staff, patients, and visitors, as well as support our local, fresh food economy. That’s real and healthy food in healthcare," says Barbara Hamilton, Sustainability Manager at Palomar Health in San Diego.

The full report is available online at http://www.CAHealthyFoodinHealthCare.org. A list of participating hospitals is included in the report.

The CA Healthy Food in Health Care Program is led by the San Francisco Bay Area Physicians for Social Responsibility and allied organizations in Los Angeles and San Diego.

Heath Care without Harm, an international coalition of more than 500 organizations in 53 countries, is working to transform the health care sector, without compromising patient safety or care, so that it is ecologically sustainable and no longer a source of harm to public health and the environment. To learn more about HCWH's work, visit our website at http://www.noharm.org.

San Francisco Bay Area Physicians for Social Responsibility leads the Healthy Food in Health Care Program in California. Guided by the expertise of medicine and public health, we work to protect human life from the gravest threats to health and survival. We promote public policies and practices that protect human health from the threats of nuclear war and other weapons of mass destruction, climate change, toxic chemicals, environmental health harms associated with the industrial food system, and other social injustices in our society today. To learn more, visit http://sfbaypsr.org and http://www.CAHealthyFoodinHealthCare.org.


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