Stanford Hospital starts organic, sustainable patient menu

A new organic and sustainable patient menu named Farm Fresh was launched three months ago at 613-bed Stanford Hospital & Clinics. All items on the Farm Fresh menu are local-within 200 miles of the campus-sustainable and organic. The menu is available for lunch and dinner.


The Farm Fresh menu consists of a choice between two soups or an organic vegetable salad with a whole-grain bread, dessert and beverages. The soup selection is a chicken noodle soup with vegetables or the soup of the day, which could be cauliflower soup with rosemary, a roasted sweet pepper soup with goat cheese, roasted tomato soup with herbs and a carrot ginger soup with curry. If a patient selects the soup of the day, he can choose to add grass-fed meatballs, poached organic chicken or smoked tofu as a protein for the soup.

Patients can select to have the regular menu or the Farm Fresh menu, and Executive Chef Beni Valesquez said the program is gaining in popularity. "We started out with between 10 and 12 orders a day and now we are doing between 60 and 75," he says. Patients who choose the Farm Fresh menu are given a copy of the soup's menu to take home.

Valesquez said the idea for the Farm Fresh program was born out of a conversation between one of the hospital's cardiologists, Bobby Robbins, and local restaurateur, Chef Jesse Cool, who is known for her all organic restaurant. "It was just talk for a while, but when we were making some changes in the foodservice department, which happened in December, we started figuring out how we could bring in this program," Valesquez said.

One of those changes was bringing in Valesquez as the hospital's executive chef. "Stanford hired me because I come from hotels and restaurants, and the idea was to bring in a chef who had never worked in a hospital environment but could bring in that five-star quality," Valesquez said. So Valesquez and Cool began collaborating to see how they could bring the idea of a local, sustainable meal program to patients at Stanford.

"It's pretty much night and day," Valesquez said about the change in patient menus. "It's definitely a big change in how we think about how we are producing stuff and where it's coming from. It's coming in without any additives or preservatives, so we definitely don't want to add any additives or preservatives to it. So the process of how you would cook in a big institution has had to change. It's challenging at times because you have cooks and chefs and this is pretty much all they've known. They have worked here 20 years. So to come in and say, ‘no, we are actually going to sauté, grill, broil, and cook with olive oil and real butter,' it's a little different for them. The challenge is getting everyone onboard and getting everyone to understand how we need to cook."

Valesquez said after training and explaining the benefits of the program, the staff has come onboard with the idea.

"Farm Fresh is just the beginning," Valesquez said. "This program has helped us open the door to be able to do more things throughout the hospital. It will trickle into catering, the cafeteria and the restaurant we have upstairs. There is a high cost involved. We have to look at cost and be realistic and see what we can do. Our vendors are willing to talk with us and based on our consumption and amount we are ordering, they may possibly be able to help us with some cost issues."

Valesquez hopes that by next year, most of the hospital will be using the Farm Fresh menu.

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
trail mix

We’ve added fueling stations in our units for our workers who didn’t have time to eat or just need a snack. We have areas set up with trail mix, crackers, cookies and water. It helps us avoid people feeling or getting ill, especially when we get closer to exam periods and student workers are studying and not taking the time to eat.

Ideas and Innovation
reusable coffee cup thermos

We were inspired by a book titled “Influence” to start a sustainable cup program called My Cup. All 15,000 new students receive a reusable cup with their name on it, which they can use at the dining halls. Personalizing helps them invest in the program and actually use it.

Menu Development
quinoa bowl

In a time of growing health consciousness, it might not be enough anymore for food to be merely filling. According to Technomic’s 2016 Healthy Eating Consumer Trend Report , diners are looking for food with a function, such as those with high protein content, immunity-boosting properties, antioxidants, probiotics and more. The data suggests 63% of consumers see these foods as healthier than those without any specific nutritional function—and would be more likely to buy them.

But are those stated preferences translating on an operational level? There, the answer is less clear. Baby...

Ideas and Innovation
phone bed call sick

We make people call and directly talk to their boss or supervisor if they are reporting an absence for a shift. While it is more cumbersome, it is a conscious decision. We have adapted and implemented electronic methods to obtain efficiencies in just about every other functional area, except for electronic absence reporting systems. The direct supervisor can put more pressure on an employee to show up—especially those with some form of the “Super Bowl plague”—than any electronic system can.

FSD Resources