The Local and Sustainable Purchasing Initiative challenges hospitals to evaluate the purchasing patterns of their food service department, and shift toward local and sustainable options. By prioritizing local and sustainable food, hospitals can move the food system in a more sustainable direction; improve the health of their patients, staff, and visitors; and invest in the well-being of communities and the environment.
The way food is produced, processed, distributed, and consumed has significant impacts on human health, climate change, air and water pollution, and the viability of future agricultural production. Pesticide drift, field runoff, toxic gases from degrading manure, and diesel exhaust from transporting food long distances are all by-products of food production that contributes to public and environmental health problems.
Unsustainable agricultural practices account for 75% of all water quality problems in the U.S., more than 20% of greenhouse gas emissions globally, and myriad cases of cancers, autoimmune disorders, and neurological diseases. Through current practices and policies, our food system encourages quantity over quality, negatively impacting not only the environment, but also individual health. Nationally, the U.S. spends billions of dollars to treat diet-related diseases - $147 billion to treat obesity alone, another $116 billion to treat diabetes, and hundreds of billions to treat cardiovascular disease and cancers.
Sustainably-produced foods are not just an absence of unhealthy inputs, but are more broadly defined as being of minimal harm to the environment, healthy for consumers and producers, fair in terms of wages and working conditions for farmers and farm workers, respectful of animal welfare, and supportive of the economic well-being and sustainability of communities, rural and urban. Many of these foods can be identified through existing certifications and labels. Local food procurement is a key component of sustainable purchasing. Purchasing locally-produced food is a great way to support local farmers, preserve farmland, bolster the local economy, and connect hospital patients, staff, and visitors to food that is grown in their community. Health Care Without Harm defines local as: Food that is grown/produced and processed within 250 miles (of a health care facility). For processed foods, greater than 50% (by weight) of the product must meet this definition.