Healthy Food in Health Care

Sourcing local and sustainable food is a primary objective of most Vermont health care facilities, so much so that an initiative entitled Health Care Supported Agriculture has emerged.

At least ten of Vermont’s health care organizations have signed the Healthy Food in Health Care Pledge, with the national organization Health Care Without Harm, to improve the health of their patients, communities, and the environment. To demonstrate their commitment to local and sustainable food, all participating facilities are seeking to purchase organic and local produce, eggs from humanly-raised chickens, sustainably-harvested seafood, meat and poultry raised without the routine use of antibiotics, growth hormones or arsenic, and dairy raised without artificial hormones.

These food purchasing have significant potential to impact Vermont and New England’s agricultural economy. For example, Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington spends more than $4 million each year on food. Currently 37%, or $1.5 million, of their annual food budget is spent on food produced by local farmers and food producers. They purchase yogurt, fruit and vegetables, cider, turkey, and other food products from more than 70 local farmers and producers. Nearly 50 percent of the beef, pork, and poultry they serve comes from animals that are not treated with non-therapeutic antibiotics. This local food grown in a sustainable manner is used to prepare and serve an extraordinary 2 million meals each year to patients, employees, and the community.

While the demand for local and sustainable foods exists, many of these local and sustainable foods are not readily available in the institutional marketplace in the quantities or at the price points health care facilities need.  Farm to institution stakeholder s, including the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets, are working with the facilities that desire annually increasing the volume and dollar amount of local and sustainable food purchases, to connect with distributors, intermediaries like food hubs, and large scale producers to address the supply and product specification opportunities.

These priorities align well with the Farm to Plate 10-Year Strategic Plan for Vermont’s Food System which identifies health care supported agriculture goals of: increased local food sourcing by institutions, developing strategic partnerships to allow food producers access to larger scale markets, and measuring local food consumption data for use in tracking Vermont’s food system progress.

To learn more about health care supported agriculture initiatives, please read the following articles:

If you are interested in being involved with Health Care Supported Agriculture efforts, please contact:

Abbey Willard, Local Foods Administrator, Vermont Agency of Agriculture
116 State Street, Montpelier VT 05620-2902
Phone: 802-828-3829, Email: abbey.willard@vermont.gov