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Presbyterian seeks locally grown produce, meats

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The farm-to-table movement now has a new iteration: farm to hospital.

Presbyterian Healthcare Services is seeking out business relationships with New Mexican farmers and ranchers, looking to buy fresh fruits and vegetables, meat and poultry products it can highlight in cafeterias, patient meals and catering.

“Hospitals are an exciting new market for farms,” said Vicki Pozzebon, of Prospera Partners, who announced Friday that her organization, the Hispanic-American Institute and Delicious New Mexico have entered into a contract to source locally grown and sustainably prepared food for some of the 3 million meals per year that Presbyterian serves.

The financial impact of the direct-sales relationship for the food producers has yet to be determined.

Presbyterian, the state’s largest hospital system and insurer, said the initiative is one way of keeping some of its purchasing dollars in the New Mexico market.

The Local and Sustainable Food Procurement Program is part of Presbyterian’s healthy eating priority, which is one aspect of a larger community health plan and aligns with the Healthy Food in Healthcare  — a national initiative of Healthcare Without Harm.

Founded in 2005, Healthcare Without Harm works with hospitals across the country to improve the sustainability of their food services. The organization provides education, tools, resources and support to healthcare facilities, making the connection between the health of patients, staff and the community and the food they serve.

“Presbyterian began the conversation around the healthy foods available in our hospitals in Albuquerque and Rio Rancho in 2008,” said Leigh Caswell, director of community health for Presbyterian Healthcare Services.

“In 2015, we took the Healthy Food in Health Care Pledge to demonstrate our commitment to first ‘do no harm’ and to further encourage and support local vendors that produce healthy and sustainable food.”

Pozzebon said the consortium partners are extremely proud to have their fresh-from-the-fields bounty served at major hospitals. “Good nutrition is at the forefront of healing,” said Pozzebon.

Nationwide, health care institutions spend $12 billion in the food and beverage sector each year, according to a survey of hospital food service directors. The vast majority of it is with large distributors, but hosptials are seeking out relationships with local growers in greater numbers, said Pozzebon, a local economy and food system consultant.

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