In the United States, the four leading causes of death – and largest sources of health care expenditure – are directly linked to food: stroke, diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease.
In addition, livestock production is responsible for approximately 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Industrial meat production methods lead to water, air, and soil contamination and degradation. The rise of antibiotic-resistant infections, which impact more than 2.8 million people and kill at least 35,000 people in the United States each year, has been linked to overuse and misuse of antibiotics in animal agriculture.
What is “plant-forward”?
A style of cooking and eating that emphasizes and celebrates, but is not limited to, plant-based foods—including fruits and vegetables; whole grains; beans, other legumes, and soy foods; nuts and seeds; plant oils; and herbs and spices—and that reflects evidence-based principles of health and sustainability.
By shifting our diets toward delicious foods produced in just and sustainable ways, we can improve human and environmental health. And by increasing the amount of fruits and vegetables in our diets we can prevent and improve a myriad of health conditions. We work in partnership with hospitals to create better food systems through innovative plant-forward menus and local and sustainable food purchasing strategies.
Plant-forward is trending and chefs are discovering creative recipes that satisfy customers and increase sales. Hospitals in the Healthy Food in Health Care network are cooking creatively and collaborating across food service and clinical care departments to highlight the mouthwatering flavors, health and environmental benefits, and cost-savings that plant-forward meals can provide.
Increasing plant-forward meals
- Our Redefining protein report provides an in-depth analysis and purchasing considerations based on the health, environmental, and social impacts and considerations of various forms of protein from beef to dairy, seafood to lentils.
- The Cool Food Pledge is a platform to help hospitals offer diners more of what they want while slashing food-related greenhouse gas emissions, saving costs, and improving health. Participating hospitals receive technical assistance and support from Health Care Without Harm and Practice Greenhealth.
- Our Balanced menus strategy provides nutritious, evidence-based meal planning options and recipes that incorporate a “less meat, better meat” purchasing and culinary approach.
- Hospital chefs can also find inspiration for innovative dishes through our blended burger guidance and purchasing resource that show how to reduce meat while enhancing flavor, texture, and health benefits.
- Our research has shown that health care should prioritize high-protein plant foods rather than meat alternative products due to their optimal nutritional and environmental benefits.
Expanding local and sustainable food purchasing
The way a hospital spends its food budget can have profound impact on the production practices used to grow and produce our food, justice for farm workers, animal welfare and local food economies.
Third-party certifications (such as USDA Organic, Global Animal Partnership, Animal Welfare Approved, and others), as well as USDA, approved label claims (such as “no antibiotics ever”) enable consumers to have confidence in the production practices behind our food. Meaningful certifications and labels can identify: sustainable production practices such as regenerative agriculture, antibiotic stewardship, and sustainable fishing.
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.
- Sustainable food definitions checklist - Learn which third-party certifications and label claims protect and promote human and environmental health.
- Understanding labels: Meat and poultry - Identify certifications and label claims to help you choose sustainable meat and poultry.
- Meat and poultry product list - All of the meat and poultry in this database are raised without routine, non-therapeutic antibiotics. They meet the criteria used by Health Care Without Harm and Practice Greenhealth.
- Choosing seafood for health care - Learn about strategies for going deep on sustainable seafood purchasing.
- Localizing the food system - Learn about how hospital purchasing can strengthen local food economies and strategies to employ.
- Redefining protein: Purchasing considerations - Navigate the complex decision-making process for reducing and replacing meat on the plate.
- Signal your support for sustainable food systems
- Engage in innovation happening in your region
- Join Practice Greenhealth, the leading nonprofit leadership and networking organization for sustainable health care
- Learn more about how agricultural policy is health policy and take action
- Take the Cool Food Pledge
- Showcase your culinary creativity in the Health Care Culinary Contest
- ProCureWorks - This innovative initiative of the Healthy Food in Health Care program affects change across the supply chain by leveraging the purchasing power of hospitals and schools to provide food that supports human and environmental health.
- Health Care Culinary Contest - Health Care Without Harm and Practice Greenhealth teamed up with Menus of Change, an initiative of The Culinary Institute of America and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health to judge recipe applicants and crown a winner to be honored at the 2020 CleanMed Conference in Orlando.
- Anchors in Action - This national collaboration by organization working with institutional food service sectors (hospitals, schools, universities and municipalities) is collaborating to align standards, messaging and demonstration to transform the food system toward health, sustainability and social responsibility.
- Regional procurement, marketing and promotion projects test strategies for increasing local and sustainable food purchasing initiatives: Nourish by New England, Pennsylvania Preferred Project, Farm Fresh Health Care Project in California.