Working at the intersection of marine conservation and social and economic justice.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

In the Hospital? Thank Healthcare Without Harm for Your Local Seafood

This post comes to us from Brittany Peats, Health Care Without Harm intern. 

First, what is Health Care Without Harm? 
"Together with our partners around the world, Health Care Without Harm shares a vision of a health care sector that does no harm, and instead promotes the health of people and the environment. 
The mission of Health Care Without Harm is to transform the health care sector worldwide, without compromising patient safety or care, so that it is ecologically sustainable and no longer a source of harm to public health and the environment."

Summer 2013 Health Alliance Seafood Throwdown

What's fish got to do with it?

Fish connects us to ecosystems and communities: 

  • At HCWH, the idea of environmental nutrition focuses on the collective responsibility of supporting community and ecosystem health by paying attention to how food is raised, harvested, processed, transported and purchased. This perspective fosters a healthy, sustainable food system by focusing on strengthening communities, supporting social justice and conserving natural resources through sustainable practices.
  • Buying locally caught fish is an important way to support environmental nutrition. Many New England towns are built around the fishing industry; maintaining the strength of this industry is crucial to preserve fishing communities and enable local fishermen to continue a generations-long tradition.
Why are hospitals buying local seafood?
Locally caught fish promotes patient health and community health: 

  • Serving local fish will improve the health of the community from which the fish is harvested. Like fishing communities, hospitals are important parts of the social and environmental health of their communities. By buying fish from local fisherman, hospitals can showcase underutilized species and balance the demand on the ecosystem.  This may inspire others to buy and eat different species, which will enable local fishermen to fish a variety of species and reduce overfishing of certain popular fish. 
  • Patients will also benefit from added freshness and the higher levels of many micronutrients in wild seafood.

How is Health Care Without Harm helping hospitals source local food?
Education, outreach and technical assistance to help and engage healthcare and the public:

  • Our Balanced Menus Program will assist health care institutions in sourcing sustainable sources of protein, including underappreciated species of seafood from the local fishing communities.
  • To support a pathway to internal hospital purchasing, HCWH worked with the seafood aggregator Red’s Best to source through Sysco and Sodexo accounts. Red’s Best operates out of Boston to aggregate the seafood catch of small and medium-sized day boat fishermen and sell their catch to local wholesalers. As a result of this new partnership, in 2013, Red’s Best sold 5,410 pounds of fish to 16 healthcare facilities in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. 
  • We collaborated with NAMA on Seafood Throwdowns to engage with the healthcare community. These friendly competitions between pairs of hospital chefs charged with preparing the best hospital dish using a whole local seafood species and seasonal farmers market ingredients introduce hospital staff, visitors, and patients to underutilized seafood and increase demand for these varieties through hospital purchasing. 
  • The Celebrate the Fruits of our Ocean campaign with NAMA and the Boston Collaborative for Food and Fitness raised awareness about the challenges of the fishing community and new species of seafood to Boston’s farmers markets.  These communities now have a direct source of fresh, culturally appropriate and environmentally friendly seafood.  

Health Care Without Harm is proud to be part of the shift towards local seafood sourcing. It benefits local fishermen and their communities by establishing larger markets for previously underutilized species; while hospital patients can now enjoy delicious, ecological-responsible seafood.


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