Healthy food and communities

Health care accounts for approximately 18% of the U.S. economy and is the only sector with healing as its core mission. Hospitals can use their purchasing power and expertise to support community health and wealth beyond the hospital walls through supporting healthy and sustainable food systems. Health Care Without Harm creates connections between hospitals and food system, business, school, and community leaders to:

  • Co-create community resilience - Health Care Without Harm leads the health care sector in moving beyond doing “less harm” (reducing negative impacts from health care operations) to a future where the sector “heals” or restores ecological, economic and social capital within communities. Hospitals hold significant real estate investments, are often among the largest employers in their communities, and employ individuals who are well connected in the community. As anchor institutions, hospitals are committing to leveraging their social and economic influence for better public and environmental health through sourcing local food and investing in more sustainable and equitable food system initiatives. Community benefit investments are one pathway for nonprofit hospitals to address healthy food access and strengthen the food system. Learn how hospitals can battle hunger and disease with plants and accelerate best practices to promote healthy food access and healthier food systems.
  • Localize the food system - Creating thriving, local food systems improves community health and community wealth. Hospitals can use their purchasing power, nutrition knowledge, and community connections as anchor institutions to grow and support resilient communities from within, and outside of the hospital walls. Learn more about how hospitals are harvesting health and hope through cooperation with local farmers, and how crises can be transformed into opportunities for healing through food.
  • Make the link between climate solutions and food solutions - Industrial agriculture is one of the biggest contributors of carbon emissions. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that agriculture and associated land-use changes are responsible for 24% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions – greater than emissions from industry and greater than the combined emissions of transportation and buildings. With climate change recognized as the biggest public health threat of the 21st century, hospitals can lead food system transformation and create healthier communities through supporting local, sustainable, and regenerative producers. Sign up for the Cool Food Pledge, a platform to help hospitals and other organizations offer diners the delicious foods they want while slashing food-related greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2030. Preventing food waste and diverting unused food from landfills is another powerful way to reduce climate impact.
  • Work across sectors - As anchor institutions, hospitals can collaborate with other anchor institutions such as schools and universities, as well as local and state governments to create an even greater collective impact.

Act now

Projects

  • Delivering community benefit: Healthy food playbook - The playbook offers information and tools to address food- and diet-related community health needs throughout the community health engagement process.
  • Anchors in Resilient Communities - Comprised of representatives from key anchor institutions in the San Francisco Bay Area of Northern California working in collaboration with their community to co-create resilient regional food economies. Health Care Without Harm is currently replicating this model in other communities.
  • New England Food Processors Collaborative - A multi-sector project comprised of representatives from 15 key anchor institutions in the K-12, higher education, and health sectors and non-profit organizations working to increase access to local and sustainably produced foods while simultaneously creating food systems jobs with livable wages.
  • On-site food production - Hospitals are reaping social, environmental, and financial benefits by using their land or rooftops to grow healthy, sustainable foods.