Three tips for transforming hospital food into something more sustainable

UCSF Medical Center foodservice department shares ways it has lessened its environmental impact.

SAN FRANCISCO—The University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) is world renowned for its cutting-edge research and medical care. It is also a leader in sustainability, modeling healthy, sustainable food choices for patients, staff and visitors. In the recent 2014 townhall (see minute 21.20), an attendee asked University of California Office of the President (UCOP) President Janet Napolitano about UCOP’s sustainable food initiative, advocating for a move away from an animal-based diet. She responded that while UC is not moving toward a total vegetation approach, campuses are adjusting their procurement process to buy food from smaller, organic growers. Napolitano commended UCSF for its sustainable food efforts, notably efforts to eliminate antibiotics from the meat it serves at UCSF Medical Center.

I had the opportunity to speak with Dan Henroid, the medical center’s director of nutrition and food services, to reflect on UCSF’s successes and challenges as it moves the needle on sustainable food. Based on our discussion, I offer the following three tips for other hospitals and institutions seeking to improve the sustainability of the food they serve:

  1. Reduce conventional meat consumption in order to purchase more sustainable meat;
  2. Collaborate to promote sustainable food practices; and
  3. Get your local team on board.

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
chicken herbs

We make and broadcast short YouTube videos on TV monitors to educate our customers about cooking techniques, like how to cut up a chicken or what herbs and spices go well together. The monitors also are used to display daily menus, nutritional and allergen information, upcoming foodservice events and local weather forecasts.

Ideas and Innovation
leftovers containers

We use our Menu Forward idea to empower staff to develop menu items and keep leftovers in check. Product left at the end of service may be claimed by any station to become part of a new item within six weeks. I’m happy to see my star team fighting for their ideas and products; the benefit to food cost is spot-on, and my freezer has no mystery items lurking in the corner.

Menu Development
muse school produce

Kayla Webb, executive chef at Muse School, has transitioned the private K-12 day school in Calabasas, Calif., to an entirely vegan menu over a three-year period. Webb talks about her menuing, and how the school’s kitchen earned the title of “greenest restaurant in the world” from the Green Restaurant Association.

Q: How did you help parents get used to the idea of an all plant-based diet?

A: The first year, we didn’t announce it. We were just serving one plant-based meal a week, so it wasn’t that drastic. We do monthly Muse Talks where we invite different speakers to our school to...

Ideas and Innovation
food allergy

When potential students come to campus, we match them with a student from our allergy support group for a tour of our dining facilities. The ambassador helps the potential student to understand how they navigated campus with their food allergy. This showcases what we do for allergies on campus, and is a highly successful way to make the students feel good about dining.

FSD Resources