The hospitals featured in the report recognize that their food spending dollars, along with their positions of authority on health, wield significant influence in the quest for a healthier, more sustainable food system. When a health care facility with an annual food budget of $4 to $7 million or more asks its suppliers for pesticide-free strawberries or antibiotic-free ground beef, suppliers and distributors are ready to listen.
The purchasing power of individual hospitals multiplies when they come together. Sixty-two percent of surveyed hospitals buy organic food and 78 percent have sustainable meat purchasing commitments. San Juan Bautista’s Coke Farms expanded its organic strawberry acreage by 30 percent this year and plans to increase it by another 30 percent in 2014 as a result of Bay Area hospitals’ commitment to sourcing local and organic.
But it’s not just about food purchasing decisions. Doctors, nurses, dieticians, and other clinicians who see patients every day are also leading the charge. The faculty Academic Senate at UCSF Medical Center passed a policy in April 2013 calling for their facility to phase out all purchases of meat and poultry produced with non-therapeutic antibiotics, and urged all University of California hospitals to do the same. That same month, nearly 800 health care professionals nationwide, including 251 from California, sent a letter to the White House requesting that President Obama impel the stalled U.S. Food and Drug Administration to take action to eliminate the overuse of antibiotics in food animal production.
"There is overwhelming scientific consensus that overuse of antibiotics in livestock is a health hazard to people. It’s time for hospitals, universities, and other consumers to stop buying meat raised with non-therapeutic antibiotics," said Dr. Thomas Newman, the Chair of the Academic Senate
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