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Oregon HFHC Oct-Dec 2012 Newsletter

Oregon Healthy Food in Health Care
October - December 2012 Newsletter

HFHC Updates

 Providence Health & Services Making Big Strides in Supporting a Sustainable Food System

Congratulations to Providence Health & Services on all of the recent efforts their facilities are doing to support healthy regional food systems and communities.

Cementing Their Commitment

To the back drop of the Portland Providence Medical Center’s onsite farmers market, eight Oregon Providence hospitals signed the Healthy Food in Health Care Pledge on Friday August 10, 2012. The Pledge, a voluntary initiative of Health Care Without Harm’s Healthy Food in Health Care program (HFHC), is a commitment to serve food that is healthier for people and the environment.

Providence Health & Services’ eight Oregon hospitals join nearly 400 other healthcare facilities that have signed the HFHC Pledge which outlines steps hospitals can take to support a sustainable food system.  “Seven years ago, the HFHC program was launched through a series of roundtables across the country, Providence hospitals were at these initial meetings and have been strong supporters and national models for this work ever since,” notes Emma Sirois, Oregon Health Care Without Harm Program Director at Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility. “Today as they sign the Healthy Food in Health Care Pledge they are deepening and confirming their commitment to being leaders in serving food to patients, staff and community members that is healthy for people, communities and the environment.”

To a crowd of community members, employees and visitors, Dave Underriener, Oregon Chief Executive of Delivery Systems for Oregon Providence Health & Services, noted the significance of signing the Pledge, “Most importantly it supports our values as stewards of our resources, of our land. It creates a model for wellness.” Through this signing, Oregon Providence Health & Services’ eight facilities in Portland, Milwaukie, Oregon City, Seaside, Newburg, Hood River and Medford, have pledged to continue their strong efforts in increasing access and knowledge of sustainable, healthy food.

 Improving Community Health With Garden Raised Bounty

Hospitals from Vermont to Michigan and now to Oregon are starting a new trend of onsite farms and gardens. One of the most recent additions to this movement is Providence Milwaukie Hospital. This past April the hospital broke ground on a 100X100 piece of hospital owned vacant property to start a community garden. Within a few short weeks of starting the garden boasted 16 raised beds, perennial berry bushes and vines and a verifiable orchard of cherry, apple, and pear trees.

The idea for the garden originated last year from the hospital’s Green Team where it generated quite a bit of excitement. It took nearly 9 months working with the administration to get the project plan approved but once safety and logistical concerns were ironed out garden development came quickly. Prior to breaking ground, Providence used Beaverton based Nike’s community garden operating rules/regulations manual as a template for how to operate the Providence garden.

The garden is completely volunteer run by hospital employees though two individuals have taken a lead on coordinating. Providence received a $3000 mini grant to purchase materials and seeds/starts to get the garden going. And have received donations of other materials, plants and water services through employee contacts or employees themselves. Through a series of work parties hospital staff built raised beds, spread soil, and planted starts and seeds. A number of different departments within the hospital claim responsibility for overseeing the upkeep of assigned raised beds.

All produce that is grown in the garden is donated to two local food access points for low-income individuals – Ester’s House a food pantry serving individuals with HIV/AIDS and Hillside Care Manor a low-income adult care program. As of September 19th they had already donated 1,000 pounds of produce to these programs.

Beyond providing food to the community there have been a number of other benefits Providence Milwaukie Hospital has realized. The garden has helped breakdown silos within the hospital – outside surgeon and staff work alongside one another. Neighborhood residents have appreciated the change as well. A vacant lot has become a thriving garden where neighbors are welcome to gather and relax. The hospital has also received some good PR from the project. Channel 2 came out and filmed them on the garden’s opening day and they have received some print coverage as well.

Already Providence Milwaukie has a number of hopes and next steps for the garden:

  • Crop planning with the local food pantries to grow food that is well liked and utilized
  • Building a gazebo and sitting area for employees and neighbors to enjoy
  • Using garden produce in hospitals meals, potentially having a weekly meal highlight produce from the garden. This can be an educational opportunity regarding seasonal eating and connecting eaters to the garden.
  • Hosting the annual staff BBQ in the garden and potentially using some of the produce in that meal.
  • Developing a replication manual/how to guide to spread this concept to other Providence facilities. With assistance from the Oregon Healthy Food in Health Care Project this resource could be expanded to incorporate other models to share nationally with hospitals to encourage growth of food production gardens on hospital grounds.

 Supporting Local Farms and Improving Employee Food Access

Providence Portland launched a “pilot” program at their facility to increase employee access to local, sustainable food through hosting a community supported agriculture (CSA) drop-off onsite. Initially they had hoped to sign up 20 employees for the Sauvie Island Organics CSA program to pilot how well a drop site would do at their facility. Instead nearly 140 individuals signed up who will now have access to weekly boxes of locally grown, organic produce. By the end of the harvest season it was estimated that participating Providence Portland employees will access nearly 50,000 pounds of produce through the CSA.

CSAs require members to “invest” in a share of the farm generally in one are two lump sums at the beginning of the growing season. This allows farms to have the necessary cash flow to purchase needed seeds and equipment when they need it. Being a member of a CSA is a great way to support local farms but purchasing a share that can run $600-$900 dollars all at once can be cost prohibitive to many individuals. To address this issue, Providence took an unprecedented step and purchased the shares upfront for each of the enrolled employees, allowing them to payback the purchase through weekly payroll deductions. So far feedback from employees has been very positive and they hope to expand the program to other campuses.

If you would like your hospital/health system to be highlighted in the Oregon Healthy Food in Health Care Newsletter contact Gretchen Miller.

Tools and Resources

Oregon Healthy Food in Health Care’s Hospital Farm Direct Purchasing Guide and Questionnaire – This two part document provides a guide to hospitals navigating sustainability and food safety questions/concerns when engaging with farm direct purchasing. The second component of the resource is a questionnaire for hospitals to share with farms asking questions about their sustainability and food safety practices.


Does GMO corn really cause tumors in rats? This week, a French research team published a paper in a peer-reviewed US journal showing that rats exposed to low doses of both genetically modified corn and the widely used herbicide Roundup had negative health effects. The results, already generating plenty of debate, are not as clear-cut as they seem at first glance.

EPA to withdraw proposed rule on livestock facility reporting requirements. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will withdraw a proposed rule, widely opposed by livestock and other industry groups, that would have required all concentrated animal feeding operations to report information about their operations, regardless of whether they discharge into water.

Green cowboys: New breed of ranchers shapes a sustainable West. A new breed of cowboy is changing how ranching is being done in the American West. But this is no boutique movement. These are ranchers managing the land in benevolent and environmentally sensitive ways because they think it will help them survive – and make money.

The hidden costs of hamburgers. Americans love hamburgers – we each eat an average of three a week. But what are the hidden costs? It turns out that livestock create about as much greenhouse gas pollution as cars, planes and other forms of transport. It also takes a heavy environmental toll on land and water worldwide.

Agriculture is nation's biggest water polluter but usually goes unpunished. Forty years after Congress passed the Clean Water Act, a case heading to the Washington State Supreme Court this fall highlights one of the biggest failings of this bedrock environmental law: farms are exempted from federal water-pollution regulation.

Big Food girds for California GMO fight. After two decades fighting to force U.S. food companies to tell consumers when their products are made with genetically-modified organisms, activists in California have mounted what is potentially their most promising offensive to date.

Big Organic joins Monsanto in fighting GMO labeling initiative. Large corporations that own organic food brands are also bankrolling the fight against the GMO labeling initiative in California.

Use of antibiotics in animals raised for food defies scrutiny. After finding a germ resistant to many types of antibiotics had increased tenfold on chicken breasts, U.S. scientists said they were stymied by a lack of the most basic element of research: solid data.

Upcoming Events

16th - Hunger and Environmental Nutrition DPG of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Webinar Series - Healthy Institutions: Strategies for Farm to Tray - 12:00PM-1:00PM (online)
29th - Hunger and Environmental Nutrition DPG of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Webinar Series - Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO): From Science to Policy - 11:00-12:30PM (online)

8th – Healthy Food in Health Care Webinar Series – Balanced Menus: Meat Reduction and Sustainable Meat Procurement for Health Care – 12:00PM-1:00PM (online) 
13th – Friends of Family Farmers InFARMation – 5:30PM-8:30PM (Portland, Oregon – Holocene, 1001 SE Morrison)
13th - Hunger and Environmental Nutrition DPG of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Webinar Series - Nourishing a Hungry Nation on a Budget - 10:00AM-11:00PM (online) 

11th - Friends of Family Farmers InFARMation – 5:30PM-8:30PM (Portland, Oregon – Holocene, 1001 SE Morrison)