More than a year after the coronavirus changed life as we know it, eyes remain on the healthcare industry as it works to restore the wellness of communities that have weathered the unprecedented and prepare them to return to some shade of normalcy.

With the COVID-19 crisis casting a spotlight on issues such as food waste, responsible sourcing and access to nutrition, the message of food as medicine may have a more receptive audience than ever before. A top dining director in higher education even noted that he’d seen college studentsconsidered by many to be the holy grail of unhealthy eatersopting for more fruits and vegetables lately in an effort to shore up their health.

One organization working to promote healthier, planet-friendly menus is The Culinary Institute of America (CIA), whose collaboration with Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health on the Menus of Change initiative and its Principles of Healthy, Sustainable Menus has helped foster the idea of plant-forward eating and menu strategies as a means to individual and collective wellness. The CIA has further expanded its work in this area with the Global Plant-Forward Culinary Summit and its digital media counterpart, the Plant-Forward Kitchen.

It’s against this backdrop that FoodService Director and the CIA unveil our first list of Plant-Forward Healthcare Operations to Watch, a collection crafted with input from Health Care Without Harm, an organization that strives to promote sustainability within the healthcare segment. (This list will be further explored in an FSD-led session during the CIA’s upcoming Menus of Change summit, being held virtually from June 22-24, 2021.)

The operations that made the cut demonstrate a commitment to plant-forward cuisine, local sourcing, sustainability and more, underscoring the idea that a healthy world can begin with what we choose to put on our plates.

The CIA defines plant-forward as “a style of cooking and eating that emphasizes and celebrates, but is not limited to, plant-based foods—including fruits and vegetables (produce); whole grains; beans, other legumes (pulses), and soy foods; nuts and seeds; plant oils; and herbs and spices—and that reflects evidence-based principles of health and sustainability.”