Urban Philly Hospital Boosts Local Produce Buys

Jefferson University Hospital, an urban healthcare facility in Philadelphia, has scored more than a 25-percent gain in sourcing ingredients locally during the growing season for its Atrium Cafeteria retail facility, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. Now in its second year, the program, called Healthy Food in Healthcare, has so far turned out to be revenue-neutral, with higher labor costs offset by lower transportation fees.

Variety has also been enhanced, with a limited supply centered largely around squash and apples in the program’s first year in 2007 expanding to encompass sweet potatoes, peaches, beets, cucmbers, radishes and herbs in 2008. The local products constitute less than 10 percent of total purchases, but they have helped foster a perception shift that has put new emphasis on healthier and fresher dining, even though Philly cheesesteaks and hot dogs remain menu staples for the some 3,000 daily diners at Atrium Cafeteria.

Among other initiatives, healthy Food in Healthcare has led to the elimination of growth hormones in the milk the hospital purchases, and of trans fats in its baked goods. The local purchasing program is augmented by a sidewalk farmers market that gives staff and visitors a chance to buy local products for themselves.

Among those credited with facilitating the program are the Farm to Institution project of the White Dog Café Foundation, and Common Market, a nonprofit local produce distributor. Future goals include the incorporation of hormone-free, grass-fed beef and maybe even local fish into the menu.