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You Are What You Eat: UCSF Moves the Needle on Sustainable Food

A university medical center is providing local, organic food to its patients and their visitors.

Submitted by: Guest Contributor

Posted: Nov 07, 2012 – 11:59 AM EST

Tags: sustainability, food, organic, university of california, fair trade, supply chain, health


By Deborah Fleischer

The adage you are what you eat, seems even more important when you are eating at a hospital café or sick in the hospital. 

The University of California – San Francisco has committed to moving the needle on sustainable food as it works to meet its goal of procuring 20 percent of its food from sustainable sources by the year 2020. At UCSF, sustainable food must meet at least one of several standards:

  • USDA certified organic
  • Grown within 200 miles of San Francisco
  • Domestic or fair trade certified or certified humane raised and handled, cage-free, grass-fed or pasture raised.

Sustainably produced food supports a healthy environment by conserving and protecting natural resources, reducing UCSF's carbon footprint, providing fair wages for workers, promoting the humane treatment of animals and using less pesticides.

I had the pleasure of speaking recently with Jack Henderson, Associate Director, Nutrition and Food Wallaby OrganicServices, at the UCSF Medical Center. Here is an update on UCSF's impressive progress on sustainable food at the medical center and at the Moffitt Café.

Organic Baby Food: If your child is sick at the UCSF Medical Center, you will be happy to know the medical center has switched to organic baby food for pediatric patients. While a recent Stanford study claimed that organic food hasn’t been proven more nutritious than conventional food, UCSF made the switch to organic baby food as result of both the priorities of the Sustainable Food Working Group and external pressures from parents. “Many parents came in concerned,” explained Henderson. 

The following organic baby foods are now in use: organic apples, applesauce, bananas, carrots, carrots/corn, chicken/brown rice, peas, sweet potatoes, pears and turkey/squash.

Local/Organic Fruit: All whole fruits served at the Moffitt Cafe are now local, organic or both. If you buy an apple or banana in the cafe, it will be organic and/or local, where possible.  Portions of the Cage free eggssalad bar are also organic.

To top it off, all whole fruit is under a dollar!

Cage-Free Eggs: Since late last year, the medical center and cafe are using cage-free eggs from Wilcox Family Farms. The eggs are sustainably farmed from chickens with outdoor access, vegetarian feed, no GMOs or antibiotics and Food Alliance and American Humane Society Approved.

Organic Local Rice and Bread: The medical center and cafe have also switched their whole wheat breads and wheat rolls to Alvarado Street Bakery, which provides local and organic bread. In addition, all brown rice is organic and local, from Lundberg in the Sacramento Valley.

Organic, Local Yogurt: All the yogurt in the cafe and medical center is local and organic from Wallaby in Sonoma. All Wallaby organic products are made using organic milk from cows raised on local, pasture-based farms.

All these great changes begged the question--is this costing more?

Henderson explained that by being smart about what the medical center is buying in other areas he does not expect to see an overall net increase in costs. Additionally, the center is capturing savings from the popular Meatless Monday as well as just in time purchases, which reduces waste.

About the Author:

Deborah Fleischer is President of Green Impact, a strategic sustainability consulting practice that helps socially responsible companies and NGOs transform a commitment to sustainability into action. Her expertise focuses on strategy, engagement and communications. Green Impact was recently ranked as one of the top three communications agencies by Corporate Responsibility Magazine.

She is the author of Green Teams: Engaging Employees in Sustainability and her recent clients include the University of California San Francisco, Plantronics, Business Social Compliance Initiative (BSCI), Sonoma Open Space District and the Sonoma Land Trust. You can follow her occasional tweets at @GreenImpact, join her Facebook page or check out her blog Shades of Green.

The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by CSRwire contributors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of CSRwire.

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