(Beyond Pesticides, September 11, 2009) Stanford Hospital & Clinics, with its medical center located on the main campus of Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, has launched a new daily dinner meal for inpatients featuring organic, locally grown, sustainable ingredients. The new inpatient menu option puts Stanford Hospital at the forefront of an emerging nationwide recognition that fresh, healthy food is a vital part of the healing process. The program debuts as groups ranging from the American Medical Association to the American Nurses Association have recently established policies to encourage hospitals and other health care facilities to serve patients healthier and ecologically sustainable foods with natural high nutritional quality. The American Public Health Association has also endorsed a similar policy.
The Stanford Hospital & Clinics (SHC) Farm Fresh program was developed in collaboration with Jesse Cool, a nationally recognized Northern California chef, restaurateur and food writer who has been an advocate and leader in healthy eating for over 30 years. The ingredients for Stanford Hospital’s Farm Fresh meals will primarily come from growers and producers within a 200-mile radius of Stanford Medical Center, based on seasonal availability. Among the items featured will be vegetables from local farms, olive oil from Napa Valley, strawberries from Watsonville, organic dairy from Petaluma, pasture raised range chickens and grass-fed range beef from Marin and Sonoma, and whole grain bread from a San Francisco bakery.
“Stanford Hospital is known for providing our patients with the latest medical advances and treatments in an environment that promotes healing,” said CEO Martha Marsh. “This exciting new approach to the food we serve our patients is not just an amenity. It is part of our commitment to help patients heal as quickly as possible and to feel comfortable and cared for while they are here.”
To create the new menu, Stanford Hospital’s executive chef Beni Velazquez worked with Ms. Cool, who is nationally recognized for her early and dedicated advocacy of organic food, grown locally with sustainable farming techniques. Mr. Velazquez, who joined SHC in December 2008, is a certified chef instructor with Culinary Institute of America, a former chef at the Ritz Carlton, and previously owned restaurants in Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Mr. Velazquez is delighted with this step for the hospital. “I would never have thought of doing hospital food,” he said, “but Stanford has a vision and this is a very cutting edge program.”
Stanford’s Chair of the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery Robert Robbins, M.D., was an early enthusiast for development of the new menu, inspired by meals at one of Cool’s local restaurants. “Once people are in the hospital, especially when they have major surgeries, their digestive systems do not work quite as well,” he said. “This kind of food is perfect.”
Ms. Cool’s creative approach to developing a new menu option at Stanford Hospital reflects a basic principle””simple is best. Soup is the centerpiece of the new menu, with seven seasonal options and chicken noodle with vegetables offered each week. For patients who need extra protein, the vegetable soups can be bolstered with the addition of tofu, poached chicken or meatballs made from grass-fed beef. All the menu choices will be low in fat, salt and sugar.
To start, the Stanford Hospital has made the new soup recipes available online. Patients can take the recipes home by tearing off a section of the menus they receive while in the hospital, underscoring the message that whole foods, prepared at home, are an important contributor to well being. New tray liners feature scenes with images of Stanford’s farm heritage. All of the serving implements and printed materials have been produced with sustainability in mind. The tray liner, the bowls, cups and utensils are all made from materials that are reusable, compostable or recyclable.
“The health benefits of the new menu options are obvious,” Ms. Marsh said. “Delicious comfort food such as a beautiful basil corn soup can also lift your spirits and that is another way to promote healing. Not only are we feeding people well when they are in our care, we are encouraging them to go home and think of cooking differently. That’s an important message in this program.”
“If Stanford Hospital can play a leadership role in this area and be an advocate for organic, local and sustainable foods for patients, we’re proud to take that responsibility,” Ms. Marsh said.
According to Health Care Without Harm’s Healthy Foods Project, more than 200 health care facilities have taken a similar path to Standford’s, by adopting a Healthy Foods Pledge.
For more information on the many benefits of organic food, please visit Beyond Pesticides’ Organic Food program page. For information on issues related to pesticides and health care facilities, see Beyond Pesticides’ Healthy Hospitals program page and the collaborative report by Beyond Pesticides and Health Care Without Harm Healthy Hospitals: Controlling Pests Without Harmful Pesticides. For information on pest management in the health care sector and the conversion to nonchemical practices, see Beyond Pesticides’ heatlh care program page and report, Taking Toxics Out of Maryland’s Health Care Sector.