February 22, 2008

Program to explore produce options

Featured Image

Kaiser Permanente’s Preston Maring, M.D., center, talks with Vanderbilt’s Patricia Temple, M.D., left, and Shari Barkin, M.D., about his hospital system’s successful farmer’s markets. (photo by Mary Donaldson)

Program to explore produce options

The Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt will soon be rolling out a pilot program aimed at partnering with local farmers to bring fresh fruits and vegetables to faculty, staff, patients and visitors at the Children's Hospital and, eventually, all of Vanderbilt.

The program, called Farm to Hospital, will begin with Vanderbilt food vendor Aramark seeking opportunities to incorporate local products into menu items at the Vandy Café in Children's Hospital’s food court this spring and summer.

“Grab-and-go” items such as locally grown apples may also be added to the selection.

“We hope we can develop relationships with local growers and make their products available here,” said Ed Chan, outsource leader in Nutrition Management at VUMC. He is also serving on the Farm to Hospital steering committee.

Surveys will go out in early spring to determine the level of interest in an on-site farmer's market, which could begin in the summer of 2009. Employees will also receive education about the benefits of eating locally grown fruits and vegetables.

“Access to nutritious food is key to ensuring everyone in our community is healthy,” said Mary Kate Mouser, director of Children's Health Improvement and Prevention at the Children's Hospital.

Preston Maring, M.D., associate physician-in-chief at Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, Calif., presented a grand rounds titled “Produce to the People” on Feb. 19 at Children's Hospital. He spoke about the farmer's markets he established in 2003 at Kaiser Permanente's 19 hospitals, which make up the largest non-profit health care system in the nation.

“When you provide easy access to nutritious food it actively begins to make a difference. It's one baby step at a time,” Maring said.

Shari Barkin, M.D., director of General Pediatrics, is also a member of the Farm to Hospital steering committee and is a strong supporter of the healthy food options.

“We know food is the best medicine we have to achieve the outcome of good health. By increasing availability of good food options, you are making a strong statement to employees and patients about what we stand for,” Barkin said.

Those interested in becoming involved in the Farm to Hospital program should call Mouser at 936-5317.