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St. Luke's Pledges to Offer Nutritious, Locally Sourced Foods
December 05, 2019

Produce grown at St. Luke’s Rodale Institute Organic Farm on the St. Luke’s Anderson Campus.

St. Luke’s University Health Network is the first health system outside of the Philadelphia area to sign the Good Food, Healthy Hospitals pledge. SLUHN signed the pledge after the initiative secured a five-year national grant to expand the program statewide.

The president of each SLUHN campus signed the Good Food, Healthy Hospitals Pledge, taking the next step to promote good healthcare through good food choices in all the hospital settings: patient meals, cafeteria meals, catering and vending machine operations.  The guidelines are based on existing evidence-based standards to ensure they follow the latest dietary guidance. These commitments include purchasing locally sourced and sustainably produced foods and increasing the overall nutritional value of the snacks, meals and beverages offered at the hospital campuses.

“Ensuring access to fresh, unrefined, locally-sourced food in our hospitals demonstrates our health system’s commitment to preventive care,” said SLUHN’s Amy Previato, MPH, CHES, Network Director, Employee Wellness Department of Community Health and Preventive Medicine.

“Improving the food environment will not only improve the health of our community, including nutritionally vulnerable populations such as the chronically ill, youth and seniors, but also lessen the economic burden of healthcare costs associated with Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and other diet-related illness,” said Bonnie Coyle, MD Chair, Community Health and Preventive Medicine.

St. Luke’s participation also serves as a model for other large institutions, employers and programs, Previato said.

Facilities that have signed the pledge work closely with the Good Food, Healthy Hospitals team, including the Pennsylvania Department of Public Health, Philadelphia Department of Public Health and The Common Market Mid-Atlantic for technical assistance.

Since the program started in 2014, 39 hospitals representing eight large health systems mostly in the Philadelphia area have signed the pledge to participate. SLUHN is proud to be one of the most recent additions to the statewide initiative, Previato said.  The collaboration will extend through the end of the grant funding period.

Funding is provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Health through the State Physical Activity and Nutrition grant and Preventive Health and Health Services Block Grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

To increase the availability of healthy foods, St. Luke’s offers:

  • The SLUHN Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, implemented through the Employee Wellness Department. By partnering with local farmers, St. Luke’s offers weekly shares of locally grown produce to employees across the network for a 20- week growing season. This program has grown from one farmer delivering weekly to three locations to 10 farmers delivering weekly to 18 locations throughout the Network. In 2019, the program had nearly 600 members generating $220,000 back into the pockets of local farmers. More than 11,000 bags of vegetables were distributed in the growing season.  Unclaimed shares are donated to local soup kitchens and food pantries, offering an additional nutritional benefit to some of our community’s neediest members.
  • St. Luke’s Rodale Institute Organic Farm: Produce from the farm is distributed to all network cafeterias and used in the preparation of food for patients, employees, and visitors. The farm also provides produce for several distribution sites of the SLUHN CSA Program.
  • Make Friends with Food: A Plant Based Eating Class: a six-week experiential series where SLUHN employees can learn about incorporating more whole, plant-based foods into their diet to help maintain health and fight disease.