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Hospital takes on buy-local challenge

July 24th, 2014

by Barry Ronan

Last month a Hospital Impact blogger raised the questions: What is a hospital's obligation to promote and model healthy eating and sustainability habits to both staff and patients.

The Western Maryland Health System (WMHS) is a member of the Maryland Hospitals for a Healthy Environment (MD H2E) and has been since the inception of the organization in 2005. MD H2E advances a culture of environmental health and sustainability in Maryland's healthcare community. WMHS is one of twenty eight Maryland hospitals and health systems participating in MD H2E's latest initiative idea: The Buy Local Challenge.

Simply put, we agreed to support farms by serving and eating local during Buy Local Week, which is this week, July 19 through July 27. We pledged through our food and nutrition service at WMHS to serve at least one local food item each day during Buy Local Week.

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Our staff understands the importance of providing the freshest produce whenever possible to our patients and employees while supporting our local farmers. Such support expands our regional food system as well as our local economy. And it doesn't stop there.

At WMHS, we support our local farmers though a weekly on-site Farmers' Market throughout the summer and our dietitians work cooperatively with our staff and visitors with menu ideas and recipes while promoting the farmers' market. They also have an exhibition cooking day around the items that are available at the farmers' market for that day.

I am so very much encouraged by the active participation of our staff in every aspect of the Buy Local Challenge. They engage participants in the various activities, as well as regular purchasers of the produce. We recognize that by providing healthier food choices for our patients, visitors and staff that we are fulfilling our mission of "superior care for all we serve."

Barry Ronan is the president and CEO of Western Maryland Health System in Cumberland, Maryland.

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