Farm-To-Hospital: Fresh, Local Foods Coming to a Cafeteria Near You

Farm-To-Hospital: Fresh, Local Foods Coming to a Cafeteria Near You!

The BNMC’s Farm to Hospital initiative is designed to bring more locally grown and sourced produce, proteins, and other menu items to patients, visitors, and employees across the Medical Campus, in partnership with Kaleida Health and Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Benefits of New York State Grown Foods

We all have heard the buzz about local foods.  But what does it really mean?

When businesses and institutions buy local it can have remarkable effects on public health, the environment and the local economy.  The mere questioning of where food is produced allows us to become more aware of what we put into our bodies.  And when the benefits are listed, there seems to be little question of the better option.

Wow, this stuff is tasty!  Locally grown food is at optimal freshness, picked at the peak of ripeness and therefore full of flavor.  Produce retains more nutrients and is higher in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.  With fewer steps between you and the source of your food, contamination is far less likely. As well, local farmers may be using less or no pesticides and herbicides, which is healthier for the body especially for those who are immunocompromised.

In Western New York we love our green spaces and blue waters.  And, our “City of Good Neighbors” nature can extend to helping the environment too.  Eating more local foods reduces C02 emissions through less food miles travelled, helping with overall climate change.  When our producers operate well-managed farms it help protect the naturally rich ecosystem by conserving our fertile soil and fresh water from Lake Erie, as well as sequestering carbon from the atmosphere.  Buying local protects our amazing natural resources for future generations to enjoy.

Money helps too!  Choosing local supports OUR farmers. More dollars stay within the local economy and provide the security producers need to continue in this rewarding yet challenging work.  We should all be proud.  New York State ranks nationally for its top agricultural products such as wp-contentles, maple syrup and pumpkins. We are third in the nation for our dairy, wine & grapes, cabbage, cauliflower and fourth for tart cherries, fresh market sweet corn, squash, pears.  Here in Western New York we are surrounded by rural farmland and in the past decade, urban farming in Buffalo has become a mainstay and hydroponic farms provide offerings throughout the year.

Grant-Funded Program Increases Access to Healthy, Local Foods in Hospitals

In 2018, the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, Inc. (BNMC) was one of 44 organizations nationwide and one of just four organizations in New York State to receive a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture Local Food Promotion Program to help create a culture of healthy food practices and increase local food procurement.  “BNMC Fresh: Farm to Hospital Implementation” works to prioritize local agriculture within hospitals and enables farms to access new markets such as health care institutions.

Our Partners’ Role

From the beginning of BNMC’s commitment to supporting local agriculture, the food services teams at both Roswell and Kaleida Health have been leading the charge.  Devoted to providing the healthiest options, Roswell Park’s Director of Nutrition and Food Services Chris Dibble had this to say, “The culinary team at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center strives to procure and utilize local produce whenever possible. Our Farm to Table program not only supports local farmers, but also provides benefits to our patients and visitors.  Eating fruits and vegetables closest to their harvest times is always ideal because they are most nutritious at that point.”

RPCCC has encouraged their employees to take part in Community Supported Agriculture programs, extending these benefits to home dinner tables.  Their team has travelled to learn more about what other hospitals are doing to support regional local food systems.

Similarly, since the start of this initiative at Kaleida, Metz Culinary has worked with the BNMC team to build on their promise of healthy offerings as well as providing helpful information on where they are sourcing their foods from and the benefits of farm fresh local foods.

“Metz’s commitment to procuring locally grown and sourced produce and meats aligns well with Kaleida Health’s commitment to advancing the health of our community,” said Hank Cole, director of Rehabilitation Medicine and Ambulatory Clinics at Buffalo General Medical Center. “Through Metz, we’re able to provide our patients, residents, employees and guests with healthy meal options, made with the freshest ingredients, while also supporting our local farmers. It’s a win-win situation. “

Kaleida and Metz are launching a Farm to Hospital campaign to share information on fruits and veggies they use in their menu as well as introducing the producers. Recently they featured a pop-up Farmer’s Market in the cafeteria, which is a fun way of getting these veggies out into homes.

Stay Tuned!

The BNMC team are proud to showcase the hard work of our food service teams and our local farmers and are hwp-contenty to help provide the healthiest – and tastiest! – culinary offerings out there.  Throughout the upcoming year, our Farm to Hospital team will provide employees, patients and visitors with BNMC Farm-to-Hospital Implementation information about featured local produce, as well as introducing the amazing farmers behind the products.  Keep your eyes out for the latest informational messages coming your way. And enjoy the tastes of the season!

BNMC Elects David Zebro Chair of its Board of Directors

BNMC Elects David Zebro Chair of its Board of Directors

Buffalo, NY – David Zebro, Principal of Strategic Investments & Holdings, Inc., was elected Chair of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus (BNMC) Board of Directors at its June meeting last week.

“David is a natural choice to lead the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus as it continues to grow into a thriving Innovation District,” said Anthony B. Martino, immediate past BNMC Board Chair. “His longtime commitment to the institutions on the BNMC and the greater community as a whole give him a unique perspective on this collaborative community asset.”

Zebro served on the BNMC Board from 2004 – 2007 when he was wp-contentointed Chair of the Roswell Park Cancer Institute Corporation’s Board of Directors, and again as the first community at-large member on the BNMC Board from 2013 – 2016. His current term runs for two years with an option by the Board of Directors to renew for up to four more years.

“I am thrilled to continue to be a part of the BNMC,” said Zebro. “I look forward to supporting the organization’s growth and evolution as we seek to have an even greater positive impact in our community and beyond.”

David Zebro Biography (Photo)

David was born in Plattsburgh, New York, attended Plattsburgh High School, and later graduated from the State University College of New York at Plattsburgh with a degree in Political Science. He met his future wife, Susan Mortensen (originally from Kenmore, New York) while studying at SUNY Plattsburgh, and they married in 1973 and moved to Buffalo. David went on to receive an MBA from the University at Buffalo in 1975 with a major in Corporate Finance.

He started his career with Union Carbide and continued to grow his expertise in business/strategic planning, operations, and financial management with other companies in more senior positions.

Since 1984 David has been employed in the private equity sector as a Principal with Strategic Investments & Holdings, Inc., where he has been involved in over 80 companies.

In addition to his work with Strategic Investments & Holdings, Inc., David has been a board member with other private companies, often as Chair. He also served on the Boards of two public companies, First Niagara Bank and Casual Male.

David has a strong commitment to community, and has been involved as a volunteer, board member, or chair for many local organizations. He is a past Chair of the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation and the Roswell Park Governance Board of Directors. Additionally, David has been a past Chair of Goodwill Industries, Vice Chair of Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, and board member of the Great Lakes Hospital Board. David has also been a board member of the Community Foundation of Greater Buffalo, and the Foundation of the State University College of New York at Plattsburgh, where he proudly works with the advancement of the EOP program and the Zebro Community Service Scholarship.

David and Susan have received numerous community awards over the years, and always encouraged their children’s commitment to the local Buffalo community. His son Ryan is involved with Hospice, and daughter Erin is involved with Roswell Park. David’s other daughter, Lauren, lives in New York City and is involved with the Parkinson’s Foundation – a disease that is connected with his wife Susan’s death in 2018.

David lives in East Amherst and enjoys spending time with his children and three grandsons. He is excited for the birth of another grandchild this August.

About the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, Inc.

The Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus (BNMC): re-imagining our city’s future through the dynamic intersection of technology, health, discovery, and collaboration. The BNMC is a social enterprise focused on driving innovation in partnership with our community. The BNMC plays a significant role in driving positive change that builds a vibrant, innovative environment. We do this by improving infrastructure, managing our transportation system, creating a culture of health and wellbeing, driving innovation, and working with our partners to continue to build an innovative district that reflects the best of our community. In addition, the BNMC owns and operates more than 150,000 sq ft of incubator space, helping to grow emerging and mature companies through dynamic workspace, programming, and networking. www.bnmc-old.local

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For more information: Kari Bonaro at BNMC, 202-904-7034

Hospital food that’s fresh from the farm

Hospital food that’s fresh from the farm

Much of the fresh produce is grown in Eden Valley and on other farms across Buffalo Niagara and Ontario.

It’s a similar scene at other area medical facilities – from Kaleida Health’s Women & Children’s Hospital of Buffalo to Buffalo General Medical Center and HighPointe on Michigan Avenue. Lettuce and corn are delivered to Catholic Health hospitals, where a rooftop garden at Kenmore Mercy Hospital provides grape tomatoes, herbs and edible nasturtiums.

Hospitals have long focused on preparing and serving healthier food to patients. What’s new is the uptick in homegrown, locally sourced produce – akin to the “Farm to Table” push in schools and restaurants.

And it’s been a particular focus on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, where the nonprofit that coordinates hospitals and other organizations on campus launched a “Farm to Hospital” initiative to explore how to bring more fresh produce into campus health care facilities.

“It’s certainly an industry trend that is growing,” said Christina Dibble, Roswell Park director of food and nutrition services. “I think that the program is only going to grow and become more robust. This is what people are looking for. There is a focus on the food being healthier, a focus of supporting your local vendors.”

The “Farm to Hospital” push to make fresh, local and sustainable food a focus at facilities on the Medical Campus is in its infancy. But momentum is building.

Driver Paul Wisniewski, of Boulevard Produce, delivers boxes of produce at Roswell Park Cancer Institute. (John Hickey/Buffalo News)

At Roswell Park, menu offerings at the cancer center’s Sunflower Cafe and cafeteria have integrated more fresh vegetables and fruit. Ratatouille earned itself a spot on the cafeteria menu recently, and homegrown asparagus was an early summer constant.

“We thought this was a perfect opportunity to bring this to the Medical Campus. We thought hospitals would be the next logical step,” said Jonathan McNeice, director of healthy communities for Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus Inc. “I think it’s encouraging that Buffalo is being a leader on this. We’re excited this is taking root in Buffalo.”

The timing is ripe in the health care arena, but many say it will take time to implement it on a broad scale on a campus where facilities have varying means of buying food.

As a one-year, $25,000 U.S. Food & Drug Administration planning grant winds down, BNMC Inc. hopes to secure a $350,000 grant that would substantially boost the initiative. The money would be used to help hospitals add training and new equipment, as well as to tap national experts to help the initiative campuswide.

“We don’t expect this to be a quick transformation. We came into this not looking for quick wins,” McNeice said of the effort that began in 2015.

‘Embedded in our culture’

If BNMC receives the grant, McNeice said it would be “full speed ahead.” “We’re all in this together, trying to figure it out,” McNeice said.
Organizations on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus have been closely watching the University of Vermont Medical Center.

In Burlington, Vt., the university’s medical center is a model of sustainable health care food service in the country. Its decadelong effort won it acclaim in the “Oscars” of food service with the 2016 Silver Plate Award from the International Food Service Manufacturers’ Association.

With six eating facilities in its complex, it was recognized for top health care food service in the United States.

“It’s embedded in our culture,” said Diane Imrie, UVM Medical Center’s director of nutritional services. “We’ve just changed our culture in that sustainability is a decision point in anything we do, and we have a very strong farm partnership network.”

Fried foods no longer are served. Patients order what they want, when they want. The center’s Harvest Cafe for visitors and workers serves fresh, organic items, as well as local beef, chicken and turkey that is mostly raised without non-therapeutic antibiotics.

“We still use some frozen corn and peas, but it was grown locally,” Imrie said. “It’s our commitment to our community. You could be an employee today, and a patient, tomorrow.”

A garden atrium that serves as a healing space for patients features items from suppliers to UVM’s sustainable food program. The atrium has direct access to the hospital’s rooftop garden, where raised garden beds feature fruit trees and herbs. Produce from the rooftop garden is used in recipes served at the cafe.

Roswell Park’s Dibble was impressed when she toured the University of Vermont Medical Center last fall with a team from the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. “We definitely walked away re-energized,” Dibble said.

Imrie chatted with the Buffalo contingent on the rooftop garden.

“A program like this does not hwp-contenten overnight,” Imrie said. “It just takes some passion, and some focus and some commitment. And celebrate the small successes.”

Getting to know the farmers

The biggest take-away for the Buffalo team was the direct link with farmers.

“They spoke with the farmers weekly and took staff out there every year for visits. They started taking pride in sourcing locally,” McNeice said. “It also allowed them to purchase more efficiently and at a better price point because they knew who had an extra crop at a certain time, and were just a phone call away. They were also very flexible in designing their menu, knowing if a farmer had extra of a certain crop.”
McNeice said the “University of Vermont set the bar high.”

“They weren’t 100 percent purists. … It’s all part of their culture,” he said. “They wanted their staff to get engaged and get their hands dirty in growing food. It was a great experience.”

In July, 21 percent of produce used at Roswell Park came from local farms. By summer’s end, that number is expected to hit 30 percent.

A “Chef’s Choice” daily special rotation menu recently began for inpatients.

“This is a starting point,” said Linda Leising, Roswell Park’s senior clinical dietitian. “We’re hoping to transition it to the room service menu, though it can be somewhat of a challenge to do locally grown vegetables year round. The Chef’s Choice is the ideal launch for us to use locally sourced produce.”

Added labor costs

The effort is not without challenges. Patients have dietary restrictions. Fresh produce can require more labor-intensive preparation and can be more costly, including the expense of additional equipment.

Dibble said the medical center has to take cleaning and prep time into its food service planning.

“Last year, we brought cases of local corn in and somebody had to husk it. In order to do that, we had to schedule somebody for a couple of hours,” Dibble said.

While bringing in fresh produce does have added expenses for equipment, staff training preparation, Dibble said “it’s been totally worth it in terms of the nutritional benefits and the positive feedback from our patients, visitors and employees.”

For instance, Dibble said, lettuce can be bought cleaned, in a bag, ready to go. If you implement all fresh lettuce, it must be washed, cut and chopped.

“We have a lot of accommodations in place, and you want the right equipment to steam that produce so you can retain the nutrients as opposed to just boiling it where all the good stuff just vapors away,” Dibble said.

Changing how medical institutions buy their produce, however, can take time to change because of procurement contracts.

It’s easier for a medical center such as Roswell Park to get started because its food service is “self-operated,” McNeice said. Other facilities contract with outside companies.

“Sodexo is very excited to work with McNeice and BNMC to drive this program so that it replicates what we do in other major markets,” said Todd Zimmerman, a health care district manager with Sodexo, with whom Kaleida contracts.

In the end, it boils down to balance, McNeice said.

“Wouldn’t it be great,” he wondered, “if neighborhoods like Allentown and Masten came to the Medical Campus to eat?”

BNMC’s First-Ever Summer Block Party Recap

On Wednesday, August 9th, the BNMC, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, the University at Buffalo and Kaleida Health put on the first-ever BNMC Block Party at Kaminski Park. This family-friendly event brought more than 800 Campus employees and neighbors together for a fun summer evening filled with food, kids activities, health and wellness information, and awesome live music provided by the Colored Musicians Club and the Kenny Hawkins All Star Band.
View the event photo album on Facebook.

Bringing Healthy Foods to Hospitals

Bringing Healthy Foods to Hospitals

We were so proud to work with Roswell Park as part of our Farm-to-Hospital effort, funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Local Food Procurement Planning grant, in partnership with Cornell Cooperative Extension, University at Buffalo, Field & Fork Network, Healthcare Without Harm, and Timbre Consultants.

Among our key findings include:

  • Local products are often assumed to be more costly, but seasonal local produce brings cost savings.
  • Farm outreach and relationship building is critical
  • Establishing institutional leadership is key for identifying project champions for change.
  • Teach through experience – we brought a local delegation to the University of Vermont Medical Center to see a successful model

We hope to be able to implement many of the recommendations across the Medical Campus this year. Learn more about how the team at Roswell Park has already adopted some of these findings to provide even healthier options for their patients.

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