Yesenia Gallardo, Northwest Community Food Systems Coordinator
Our Healthy Food in Health Care program harnesses the purchasing power, expertise, and voice of the healthcare sector to advance the development of a sustainable food system. Our advocacy campaigns bring the sector’s clout and perspective to bear on critical food systems issues such as the overuse and misuse of antibiotics in animal agriculture, aligning dietary guidelines with health and sustainability principles, harmful chemicals in our food systems, the climate-food connection, and opportunities for health care to make upstream investments in public health.
We partner with over 1,000 hospitals across North America to source and serve foods that are produced, processed, and transported in ways that are protective of public and environmental health. Our advocacy work with thousands of health professionals has resulted in the creation of sustainable food purchasing policies, environmental health curricula, and advocacy for healthy food policy at federal, state, and local levels. Health Care Without Harm is leading the healthcare sector in moving beyond doing “less harm” – reducing negative impacts from the design and operation of health care – to a future where the sector “heals” or restores ecological, economic and social capital within communities.
As anchor institutions, hospitals are embracing a commitment to apply their social and economic influence and intellectual resources to better the long-term public and environmental health of their communities. They are root in place, hold significant investments in real estate and social capital, and are among the largest employers in their communities.
Due to their significant purchasing power and trusted role as authorities on health and wellness, hospitals have an important opportunity to not only increase access to healthier, more sustainably produced food for patients, staff, and the community, but to transform the food system toward greater health and sustainability through local sourcing of foods and services and strategic investments.
The Healthy Food in Health Care program has begun to investigate the ways in which hospitals are utilizing their community benefit programs to identify and support interventions for diet-related health conditions in their communities and opportunities for expanding this role. We are currently building on this effort and conducting a national study to look at both current trends in Community Benefits programs and interventions that show promise for future investing.