More than 2,000 hospitals in the U.S. now have access to natural and organic foods, thanks to a deal announced today between MedAssets, a leading group purchasing organization for the health care industry, and United Natural Food Incorporated (UNFI), the largest publicly traded wholesale distributor to the natural and organic foods industry. The deal, which is the first contract between a major health care buyer and organic food distributor, reflects the growing demand in the health care industry for healthy food options.
MedAssets purchased more than $200 million worth of food and supplies for 2,400 hospitals in the U.S. in 2005. “This deal is tremendously important because it demonstrates the growing awareness in the health care industry about the health impacts of current large-scale agribusiness practices,” stated Jamie Harvie, Healthy Food Coordinator for Health Care Without Harm (HCWH), an international coalition working to reduce the environmental impact of the health care industry.
As a demonstration of that demand, HCWH today announced a nationwide list of signatories to its Healthy Food in Healthcare Pledge. The hospitals -- including the 41-facility Catholic Healthcare West system and numerous other top-ranked hospitals in the U.S. -- are committed to buying food that is nutritious and grown in ways that protect health and communities. The announcements were made at CleanMed 2006 in Seattle, where 500 health care leaders are gathered this week to discuss ways to reduce the health care industry’s environmental impact.
“Hospitals throughout the country are starting to recognize that the food they serve their patients and staff can impact health far beyond their walls,” Harvie said. “More and more, hospitals are recognizing that how our food is produced and distributed affects the health of people and communities. Hospitals are demanding food that is not only more nutritious, but is also grown in ways that are better for the environment and equitable for farmers and farm workers.”
To date, steps that hospitals have taken include: purchasing milk produced without bovine growth hormone, and poultry and meat produced without antibiotics; supporting local communities by hosting farmers’ markets and sourcing local produce; and serving fair trade coffee, organic produce and locally grown foods.
Also today at CleanMed, Tyrone Hayes, PhD, an endocrinologist and professor at University of California, Berkeley, will give the keynote address. Dr Hayes is renowned for his research on atrazine, a pesticide widely used on corn that disrupts hormones even at very low doses and is regularly found in drinking water sources.
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