Sustainable food procurement by the University of California’s health systems

Reflections on 10 years and recent COVID-19 challenges

Authors

  • Sapna E. Thottathil University of California

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.5304/jafscd.2022.121.004

Keywords:

COVID-19, Farm-to-Hospital, Farm-to-Institution, Foodservice, Hospitals, Labor, Pandemic, Poultry, Procurement, Sustainability, Third-Party Labels, Values-Based Supply Chain

Abstract

Across the country, hospitals are buying more sustainable food and passing internal policies in support of sustainable food procurement. This reflective essay describes the results of the sustain­able procurement goals and policy of the Univer­sity of California’s five health systems from 2009 to 2021. Based on my observations as a staff person in the University of California and my participation in internal meetings with foodservice and sustaina­bility staff, I discuss the evolution of the University of California’s sustainable food procurement policy goals and its definition of “sustainable.” I describe staff and programmatic support for purchasing environmentally sustainable food and beverages and the growth of the University of California’s sustainable food purchases as a percentage of its hospitals’ food budgets. This essay also explores staff debates about the sustainability of sourcing poultry with the label of “no antibiotics ever” after a 2020 COVID-19 outbreak at a poultry processing facility in California that led to the deaths of several workers. These debates about labor and working conditions in poultry supply chains from the five University of California health systems offer insights into ongoing challenges and oppor­tunities for institutional food procurement and policy to change the food system utilizing existing supply chains and third-party certifications and label claims. The University of California’s experi­ences also illustrate the ongoing need for farm-to-institution and farm-to-hospital efforts to better integrate values around working conditions in supply chains into sustainable procurement goals.

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Author Biography

Sapna E. Thottathil, University of California

Managing Director, Center for Climate, Health and Equity

Published

2022-10-12

How to Cite

Thottathil, S. (2022). Sustainable food procurement by the University of California’s health systems: Reflections on 10 years and recent COVID-19 challenges. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 12(1), 1–15. https://doi.org/10.5304/jafscd.2022.121.004