Greening UH in the Kitchen

Buying healthy, sustainably produced food and minimizing food waste

Our choices in the kitchen can be the most impactful decision we make as an organization to support human and environmental health, as well as community economic strength. University Hospitals built on its progress over the past several years to move its healthier and sustainable food programming forward in 2016.

We seek to maximize the healthfulness, sustainable sourcing, and educational value of food services in retail and patient areas across the UH system.

We accomplish this through interdisciplinary collaboration to define annual goals in wellness, sustainability and education; to implement interventions to achieve those goals; and to track and report on progress to our stakeholders, including system leadership. Our efforts center around sourcing less beef, more non-therapeutic antibiotic-free meats, more local food, healthier snacks, and continuing to provide healthier beverages to our patients, visitors and staff. In 2016 our progress in procuring better quality meats has been a particularly successful step forward for our healthy food and antibiotic stewardship efforts.

Beef and Antibiotic-Free Meat Purchasing

Beef and Antibiotic-Free Meat Purchasing: We reduced beef purchases to 18 percent of total meat purchases in 2016, down from 21 percent in 2015, through substituting healthier animal or vegetable proteins. Our antibiotic-free meat sourcing increased in 2016 to 21 percent of total meat purchases, slightly higher than in 2015. Two new antibiotic-free meat options – turkey and pot roast – were added to retail and patient menus, which also include antibiotic-free chicken breasts, burger patties and ground beef.

Local/Sustainable Food

Local/Sustainable Food: Sourcing local food options continues to be our biggest food challenge. We made modest increases from 2015 to 2016 both for sustainable produced food and for local food. Sustainable food products were over 7 percent of our total food purchases, and local food purchases were about 2.5 percent of our total food purchases, representing an increase of 9.5 percent and 10.6 percent, respectively. Top local items purchased included lettuces from Green City Growers, a local, employee-owned cooperative greenhouse, chopped romaine, tomatoes, cucumbers, apples, and zucchini.

Healthy Snacks: In 2016 we worked to define “what is healthy” by combining our Sodexo Nutrition Services Mindful criteria with input from our staff dietitian and wellness director. We emphasized whole food snacks with minimal added sugar. This definition is helping us to establish a baseline and create goals for 2017 moving forward.

Healthier Beverages: Slightly over half of our beverages in 2016 were considered healthier per the Healthier Hospitals definition. This is steady with our sourcing in 2015. Additionally, we continued to provide pitchered water over bottled in nearly all catered applications across the system, excepting off-campus boxed lunch events. Replacing bottled water with pitchered water makes no sacrifice in quality while improving our waste reduction by supporting methods of water provision that are not dependent on plastic production.

Sustainable and Healthy Food Employee Engagement:
2016 Markets, Farm Stands, and CSA Programs throughout the System

  • UH Geauga Medical Center: “Market days” providing produce and maple syrup from Geauga County, with cooking demos and samples each day, hosted by Nutrition Services Department
  • UH Portage Medical Center: “Market Days” offering locally available produce and value added goods, hosted by Nutrition Services Department
  • UH Richmond and Bedford Medical Centers: Rainbow Farms Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program for UH employees
  • UH Cleveland Medical Center: North Union Farmers Market from June through September
  • UH Parma Medical Center: Community Supported Agriculture Program with Cleveland Crops; Farmers' Market during growing season for employees

Healthy Harvest Program at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital

Our Healthy Harvest Program aims to provide our patients with fresh, local and healthy produce, as well as nutrition education to improve access and knowledge of healthy fresh produce. Healthy Harvest introduced fresh and local fruits and vegetables to community members that are patients of the following clinics: Family Medicine, MAC 1200, UH Rainbow Pediatric Practice, Women’s Health and the Adolescent & Young Adult Cancer Center. The 2016 Healthy Harvest season was sustained through a partnership with Rainbow Pediatric Clinic and Women’s Health Clinic, Office for Sustainability and the Greater Cleveland Food Bank, and provided 505 families with a free bag of locally grown produce. Patients also received chef demos, free taste testing, recipes, kids’ activities and stickers, information about using SNAP/WIC at local farmer’s markets and how to double EBT/Ohio Direction Card produce purchases.

Eat Real Food Employee Photo Contest, October 2016

"Apple" by Kathy Starkey

1st Prize System Winner
Kathy Starkey
UH Samaritan Medical Center

University Hospitals Office of Sustainability hosted the fifth annual food photo contest for all UH employees to celebrate healthy, affordable and responsibly-grown food. Participants submitted a digital photograph that illustrates how they are incorporating real, wholesome, unprocessed food into their lives. Photos could be of a participant's home garden or farm, a favorite home-cooked dish, a fun shot of a family cooking night, or anything else that involves healthy, local food. We received over 150 quality images this year, so we turned to the employee base to help us determine the winners. The top system photos were determined by employee vote when a survey was sent out via Intranet News to all facilities.

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