Locally grown, sustainably farmed and processed food choices are good for the environment and for people’s health. Kaiser Permanente offers sustainable food choices on patient menus at many of our hospitals. By partnering with local growers, we support the development of local and sustainable food systems as a public health tool.
The need to support good nutrition has taken on added urgency with the increased understanding of the obesity epidemic in the United States and its causes. In addition to nutritious food, we also understand that sustainable food promotes health in several ways:
- Food grown with synthetic pesticides and fertilizers exposes farm workers and consumers to those chemicals.
- Wildlife and aquatic life are impacted in deltas and other areas where agricultural chemicals accumulate.
- High volume livestock production often includes the use of non-therapeutic antibiotics which can interfere with human antibiotic effectiveness.
- Some types of food processing and packaging result in harmful exposures to humans. Last, obesity and its health consequences result in the need for more health care services (surgeries, pharmaceuticals, etc.) which use natural resources and energy.
In recent years, a farmers market movement has taken hold at Kaiser Permanente. Individual hospitals and medical offices sponsor or support farmers markets that help staff, members, and the community to eat well and make good choices by increasing access to fresh produce.
Farmers markets and buying food locally have many wonderful benefits:
- Encourages and stabilizes local economies and strengthens local infrastructure.
- Supports purchasing from small, minority-owned businesses.
- Helps to reduce exposure to toxic substances in farming communities and to consumers by supporting organic or sustainable farming methods.
- Helps address obesity and diabetes prevention by encouraging fresh, healthy produce consumption.
- Local and sustainably grown food often tastes better than commercially grown, mass produced, agribusiness food due to its freshness and growing methods.
To learn more about our sustainable food efforts, download our factsheet.
Follow the story of how Kaiser Permanente is making strides in sustainable food.
Reducing Exposure to Toxins in Food
Kaiser Permanente recently embarked on a public health project with the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) to understand the disproportionate impact of toxins in food on underserved communities, and to identify messages and strategies that would appeal to consumers and promote healthy eating.
Read the IATP Report here.
What you can do
- When you can, buy certified organic foods; ask your food providers (markets, restaurants, etc.) to stock additional certified organic foods where their selection is inadequate.
- Seek out small, local farmers who use fewer synthetic chemicals to grow your food. The United States Department of Agriculture offers a search engine for farmers markets across the United States where you can ask farmers about their growing practices before you buy your food. Find one near you!
- Reduce your portion size of meat to 3 ounces (about the size of a deck of cards) or seek out sustainable (e.g., hormone and antibiotic free, organic, grass fed) meat sources.
- Grow your own fruit and vegetable garden even if you have only a sunny indoor room, porch, or tiny backyard. If you don’t have the space, see if there is a community garden in your neighborhood. Some great tips can be found in the book, How to Grow More Vegetables and Fruits, Nuts, Berries, Grains, and Other Crops Than You Ever Thought Possible on Less Land Than You Can Imagine, by John Jeavons.
- Dine with reusable food service ware rather than disposable service ware. For a guide to selecting food service ware, see Health Care Without Harm’s “Choosing Environmentally Preferable Food Service Ware.”
- Avoid using pesticides in and around your home. Before using pesticides, try other alternatives such as sealing access points to your home. Get more ideas here.