UC Davis researchers are currently encouraging public institutions to add fresh produce from local farms and food markets to their menus. There are many foreseeable benefits to adopting a locally produced menu such as food production-consumption awareness, support for local economies and increased nutritional diet for doctors, staff and patients. However, hospitals and public institutions will need to assess the financial impact as a result of buying locally.
Consumers will be making knowledge-based decisions about the food they are eating as a result of buying locally. Increasing the amount of local produce promotes awareness about where the food comes from and how it is produced. In addition, doctors and staff working long hours will have a more complete and well-rounded diet. Patients fighting obesity may also benefit from the increased aesthetic and nutritional appeal of their food.
Local economies are also boosted as a result of public institutions and hospitals buying locally produced food. Local markets will be able to tap into broader commodity markets, as opposed to competing with large grocery chains. This also raises awareness about the environment and sustainable efforts made by small organic farmers, whose farms have less of an impact on the environment.
The benefits are numerous and obvious. However, the financial feasibility of offsetting the impacts on the environment by buying locally or increasing healthy diets is an assessment hospitals and institutions will need to make. Is adopting locally grown and produced foods a priority, and do the benefits outweigh the impacts on consumer pockets, or hospital checkbooks? The potential benefits will need to be addressed at an individual level for each hospital and institution. Whether they can finance better food products is up to their own discretion, but the impact on local economies and the environment is undoubtedly positive.