The globalization of a western diet based on excessive saturated fats, refined carbohydrates and processed foods, together with increasingly sedentary lifestyles, are contributing to epidemics in obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease in many countries.
Health-care facilities in many countries are major consumers of food and can therefore model and promote health and sustainability through their food choices. A growing number of health-care facilities in developed and developing countries that purchase and serve food to patients and workers are reducing their environmental footprint and improving patient and worker health by making changes in hospital service menus and practices. These include limiting the amount of meat in hospital meals, cutting out fast and junk food, composting food waste, buying locally and sustainably farmed produce – thereby promoting local, sustainable production, producing their own food onsite, and holding farmers’ markets for local producers to sell healthy food to the community.
By promoting and supporting nutritious, localized sustainable food systems, hospitals can both reduce their own immediate footprint while supporting food access and nutrition, thereby helping to foster the prevention of disease, a reduction in the health sector’s environmental health impacts and contributing to a longer-term reduction in the population’s need for healthcare.