Healthy Food in Health Care at CleanMed 2014

by Emma Sirois, National Co-Leader, Healthy Food in Health Care Program, HCWH

This year’s CleanMed conference provided a showcase for the Healthy Food in Health Care (HFHC) work of hospitals across the country and advanced collaboration for a healthier food system. Here are just a few of the highlights…

Kicking off the event, the HFHC Program convened a meeting the hospital leaders of the Healthier Hospitals Initiative (HHI) to discuss what they can do to use their collective purchasing power to support production of meat and poultry produced without the routine use of antibiotics. We know how critical it is that we protect the efficacy of our vital reservoir of antibiotics, and the impact that non-therapeutic use in animal agriculture is having on the rise in antibiotic resistant bacteria, causing hard to treat (and expensive to treat) human illness. These hospitals brought to this meeting their suppliers and management companies, all pledging to work together to better understand the issue, identify the challenges and create solutions.

Breakout sessions at the conference engaged attendees in learning about best practices and strategies for building healthier food environments and systems in their facilities and communities:

  • In Balanced Menus; Addressing Antibiotics Resistance and Climate Change in the Cafeteria, participants learned how a “less meat, better meat” purchasing strategy can have multiple health and environmental benefits on issues ranging from antibiotic resistance to climate change. A California health system, Palomar Health, shared results from its implementation of Balanced Menus, where it reduced their meat purchasing by 19% and are now purchasing meat and poultry raised without the use of non-therapeutic antibiotics. 
  • In Building Community Partnerships to Advance Sustainability and Promote Healthier Communities, our New England team shared the wonderful work they are doing engaging partner organizations throughout the 6-state region, to work with their local health care institutions to create and promote health in their communities. One unique partnership was a project to provide CSA (community supported agriculture) boxes to families receiving care at MetroWest Medical Center’s Pediatric Clinic – getting healthy fresh produce to families facing dietary challenges.
  • In Farmacy, The New Frontier, University Hospital in Cleveland shared its Healthy Harvest Program at their Rainbow Babies Clinic where a weekly produce table sells subsidized bags filled with produce from a local CSA farm for $3 to pediatric and women’s health patients visiting their care providers. In addition to this healthy local produce, clients get information on shopping locally and sustainably on a budget!

On Wednesday evening, attendees gathered to celebrate the work of Health Care Without Harm with a Local Food Showcase at a fabulous local restaurant, Pura Vida. The event showcased local farmers and local beer (from Great Lakes Brewery) and introduced attendees to the sustainability focused revitalization efforts in full swing in Cleveland.

We would like to thank all those in the Healthy Food in Health Care community who joined us to share their stories and learn from their colleagues.  And we look forward to seeing you all at the next CleanMed being held in my foodie city, Portland, Oregon! Mark your calendars now for CleanMed 2015, May 12-15!