December 18, 2014

Scorecard aims to create a healthier supply of food

As we gather at the family table to celebrate the holidays and the close of another season, we often do so with food as our centerpiece.

How and where we get our food is as important a consideration as the type of food we choose to put on our tables. Food that is locally grown and sustainably produced is often healthier for people and for the planet.

That’s why Kaiser Permanente created the industry’s first Sustainable Food Scorecard, which allows the organization to rate suppliers and vendors and select the vendors who can best support the organization’s sustainable food purchasing initiatives.

Here’s how it works: when Kaiser Permanente is looking for a new food distributor or food service vendor, the organization requires potential vendors to fill out a Sustainable Food Scorecard. The scorecard details Kaiser Permanente’s sustainable food criteria and prioritizes the types of products the organization seeks to purchase.

Potential vendors are required to respond to questions regarding the sustainability of their practices and to provide detailed lists of the sustainable food products they offer. The Scorecard is a key part of the vendor selection process, which also includes quality, assurance of product, cost and other factors.

Kathleen Reed, Kaiser Permanente’s sustainable food program manager and national farmers market coordinator, points to a long list of logistics and priorities to consider when seeking out the best food options for members and the broader community.

“We have to look at what we can get in season and what kinds of sustainably produced foods we can source in large quantities to supply the needs of our hospitals and medical centers,” Reed says. “We prioritize the products that provide the biggest impact in terms of sustainability. And of course, we need to maintain our costs in the midst of this.”

Since its launch in 2012, the Sustainable Food Scorecard has been instrumental in helping Kaiser Permanente advance its sustainable food purchasing efforts. For example, the Scorecard helped the organization purchase $330,000 worth of cage-free Certified Humane eggs and 170,000 pounds of poultry and beef from animals raised without antibiotics.

“Kaiser Permanente spends approximately $52 million on food each year,” explains Reed. “So we want to use our purchasing power to begin shifting the supply chain towards more sustainable food options. And the Sustainable Food Scorecard is critical to that process.”

The scorecard is just one part of Kaiser Permanente’s broad work to build the healthiest offerings we can into our patient menus and in cafeterias and vending machines at many of our hospitals and medical centers. It was modeled after Kaiser Permanente’s Sustainability Scorecard for medical products, which requires suppliers to provide environmental data for $1 billion worth of medical equipment and products used in its hospitals, medical offices and other facilities.

Kaiser Permanente also recognizes that sustainable food production and consumption require support in the community for sustainable food systems. By supporting local farms and producers through farmers markets and creating greater access to fresh produce through local grocery stores, the organization is helping to build local economies that are strong and resilient and help our communities to thrive.

Reed has been instrumental in supporting the rollout of this scorecard and was recently part of an effort to spread it to other hospital systems as a way to help them make similar strides in support of sustainable food choices.

Learn more about Kaiser Permanente's sustainable food efforts.