October 6, 2010

Food For Health Forum 10/16

On Saturday October 16th, Kaiser Permanente is hosting the Food for Health Forum at the UCSF Mission Bay Conference Center. We are expecting over 300 people from health care, the agricultural sector, the food distribution system, community groups, environmental experts, and local universities. The health professionals will be from varied health systems and include physicians and other leaders from a national and regional level as well as the front line physicians, nurses, dietitians, nutritionists, and health educators. The event is by invitation, but I’ll be posting more about it here and I hope you’ll join me in this conversation.

Why are we doing this? Critically important to the health of all of us is what we eat. There are many forces enticing us to choose foods that, ultimately, are not the best for our future. To encourage better choices, we started farmers markets at Kaiser Permanente in 2003. We now have markets at over 35 of our hospitals and office buildings around the country. Other major health care institutions have followed. It’s hard to walk past a fresh peach in the middle of July. We are also bringing more and more food from local producers into our hospitals. Some of our markets feature all organic produce. There are still very few markets in the Greater Bay Area that are all organic. Using local and seasonal foods as the basis for our diets is a great start. Organically grown produce is even better because these foods are not just good for you and your family, but also good for the environment and the people who grow the food.

Highlights of the conference include a keynote address by journalist and author, Michael Pollan. Celebrated cookbook author, Mollie Katzen, will also speak. In addition, the conference will take us from fields laden with organophosphate pesticides to a celebrated organic farm. We will look at the distribution system’s support for sustainable agriculture, the increasing use of these foods in hospital systems, and the role of an international organization, Health Care Without Harm, in helping make these changes happen. We will also hear about the challenges that many communities face in having access to good food, as well as strategies to improve this for the future.

I hope that all those who attend will come away with ideas and the understanding that all of us can vote for a different future with our forks and that those of us in health care can help create healthier futures for our patients and communities. For those who aren’t there, I promise to continue this discussion right here.