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Healthier Food

If you haven’t already, start by taking the Healthier Hospitals Healthier Food Challenge.

The United States spends more than $1 trillion dollars each year on the management of chronic disease. Hospitals are anchor institutions in most communities and are often models for community behavior. At a time when more than 68% of the US population is considered obese or overweight[i] and diabetes affects more than 26 million Americans and is the seventh leading cause of death[ii], hospitals should be modeling safe, responsible and nutritious eating behaviors. Yet many hospitals continue to serve a variety of processed and fried foods, trans fats, sugared beverages and produce saturated with pesticides—both to their patients and to their staff.

At the same time, food systems have a significant impact on the environment. The average piece of food travels between 1,500 and 2,500 miles from farm to plate[iii], creating greenhouse gases through vehicle and plane transport. Agriculture is incredibly environmentally intensive, using huge volumes of water, pesticides, and in the case of meat and poultry—antibiotics. Traditional food systems often can contaminate water sources through run-off and can drive climate change through the release of methane (from cows). Additionally, more than 20% of an average hospital’s waste is comprised of food waste[iv].

The manner in which food is produced can impact the health of the consumer. For instance, the consumption of foods grown with pesticides has been linked to learning and motor delays in children[v]. Milk and dairy products containing recombinant bovine growth hormone (or rBGH) expose consumers to an increased level of insulin-like growth factor, which has been linked to certain kinds of cancer[vi]. And emerging research has linked the consumption of meat and poultry containing antibiotics to some forms of antibiotic resistant bacteria[vii]. These factors and a host of others are driving health care providers to reexamine their food choices.

Sustainable Food Systems

There is a shifting paradigm in healthcare relative to food. Many hospitals are beginning to recognize the link between unhealthy and unsustainable food systems and the resulting impacts on human health—and have begun to dramatically shift the ways in which they procure, offer, prepare and dispose of food. The creation of onsite farmer’s markets and organic gardens, increased purchase of locally grown seasonal and organic produce, an effort to purchase meat and poultry raised without routine, non-therapeutic antibiotics and programs to compost a large percentage of food waste are just a few of the strategies being integrated at major hospitals and health systems nationwide.

Build a sustainable foodservice operation at your hospital with Practice Greenhealth’s robust set of tools and resources for assisting health care facilities in procuring, managing and tracking healthier foods and creating a sustainable foodservice operation.

Learn more below:


[i]Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National  Center for Health Statistics. FastStats: Obesity and Overweight. Available at:
[ii]Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Get the Facts on Diabetes. Available at:
[iii]Halweil, Brian. Worldwatch Paper #163: Home Grown: The Case For Local Food In A Global Market.WorldWatch Institute. Available at:
[iv]Personal Communication, Michael Geller. Providence St. Vincent’s Hospital. 2010.
[v]Lovasi, GS. et al. Chlorpyrifos Exposure and Urban Residential Environment Characteristics as Determinants of Early Childhood Neurodevelopment. American Journal of Public Health. 2011 Jan;101(1):63-70.
[vi]American Cancer Society. What Causes Cancer? Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone. Available at:
[vii]PBS FRONTLINE. Antibiotic Debate Overview. Available at:

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