Potential of Local Food Use in the Ohio Health Care Industry: An Exploratory Study
Keywords:Local Food Systems, Health Care, Hospital Foodservice, Institutional Foodservice
AbstractInstitutionalized foodservice in health care is evolving. Some hospitals have introduced local foods as a means of improving health and wellness. Investigation into the hospital foodservice literature, however, leaves unclear what percentage of hospitals actually participate in procuring, serving, or promoting local foods to patients and employees.
We investigated the factors that contributed to hospitals purchasing or not purchasing local foods for their operations. A census of Ohio hospital foodservice directors (n=155) was undertaken in the fall of 2014. The response rate was 67.8%. The broad research questions asked about how much knowledge they had of the local food movement, to what extent they currently used local foods (or had interest in purchasing local foods in the future) for their institutions, and what systemic issues advanced or impeded their institutional use of local foods.
We found that 77.9% of the respondents had knowledge of the local food movement. However, only 57.7% were currently using local foods in their operations. Even fewer were implementing programs related to local food. The findings revealed the major reasons for not incorporating local foods into operations were based on concerns over inconsistent supply levels, liability insurance, refrigeration, and other food safety issues. Lastly, the findings showed that foodservice directors are interested in programs that incorporate more local foods into their operations.
These findings provide insight into how food systems workers can help hospitals, local farmers, and food production and/or distribution operations coalesce in triple-bottom-line results that deliver positive social, environmental, and economic outcomes.
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