October 22, 2012

Interview with Jack Henderson, Associate Food Services Director for UCSF

Healthy Food in Health Care (HFHC) is a national initiative of Health Care Without Harm. HFHC harnesses the purchasing power and expertise of the health care sector to advance the development of a sustainable food system. SF Bay Area PSR coordinates the Healthy Food in Health Care program in California, and UCSF is part of the regional Hospital Leadership Team that SF PSR started five years ago.

Emily Galpern (EG): What would you consider to be some of the most significant accomplishments in your work at UCSF with the Healthy Food in Health Care program since you’ve been working there for the past 6-7 years?

Jack Henderson (JH): The first major leap was when we switched to local yogurt that was produced without the use of rBST (recombinant bovine somatotropin), and it resulted us in discontinuing our use of Dannon! It was a big deal, because it was difficult to get out of our Novation [Group Purchasing Organization] contract. Heath Care Without Harm (HCWH) was a tremendous help with this. Subsequently, we switched to a yogurt that is local and organic (Wallaby) for retail, patients and catering.

When I first met Lucia (PSR Co-Executive Director) 6-7 years ago, I was showing her around the kitchen and I proudly told her that our milk is rBST-free. She asked “What about your yogurt?” To be honest, I thought that going rBST-free with milk was great, but when she asked me this, it got me thinking.  I was put in touch with the PSR chapter in Oregon, which was leading a national campaign for rBST-free dairy, and they helped a lot. With her encouragement, I contacted Dannon’s customer service, who said rBST is fine because it is approved by the FDA. Then I contacted our Dannon representative and said “Dannon is a French company and rBST is illegal in Europe, Australia, and Japan, so why is it okay here in the USA?” She promised to find out the answer. It took a long time to hear back. Eighteen months to two years later, I got an email response from her, which was the same statement the Dannon’s customer service department had originally given me: namely, contact the FDA. So we told Dannon they could not supply us with what we needed. Since we dropped them, Dannon has now become rBST-free, as has Yoplait, due to pressure from many consumers and advocacy organizations, including members of Health Care Without Harm.

We have made other changes too. Last year, with help from Health Care Without Harm and SF Bay Area PSR, we switched to cage-free eggs. We also now serve organic baby food, organic brown rice, organic canned beans, and 98% of the greens in our salad bar are organic. We only use sustainable wild-caught salmon. We continue to bring in more and more local sustainable produce. In late September, our produce was 78% local or organic compared to last year when we peaked at a little over 60%. We purchase fair-trade organic coffee and we also started purchasing some of our breads from a worker-owned, organic bakery. So far in 2012, over 14% of our total food purchases meet University of California criteria for sustainability, up from 9.5% two years ago.

EG: Can you provide a description of the scale of operations you’re working with, in terms of number of meals served per day and your revenue?

JH: We serve an average of 500 meals three times a day to patients. Our café sales are about $22,000-$23,000 a day, or $6 million a year. We bring in about $2 million in a year from catering sales.

EG: How would you describe your working relationship with SF PSR?

JH: SF PSR is really supportive. The Hospital Leadership Team meets once a month either by phone or in person. We had the first meeting five years ago with six people. Last week, 22 people came to the meeting, including several new hospitals: St. Mary’s, Saint Francis, San Francisco General, Stanford Medical, and Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital. Kaiser Permanente’s national sustainable manager came, too. Kaiser’s support is vital because they are a much bigger operation and their commitment to sustainability carries a lot of weight.

UCSF Medical Center uses U.S. Foods as our broadline distributor, and we are one of their biggest customers. Joining with John Muir Health, Kaiser, and the other hospitals through the Hospital Leadership Team and the Healthy Food in Health Care program now means we have a lot of influence on what goes on. Generally, what happens in California happens in the rest of the country some time later. With the help of PSR, we’re on the cutting edge of increasing sustainable food in health care: we are leading the way. PSR has been wonderful!

EG: What do you look forward to in the future as you continue to do this work with the support of SF PSR?

JH: Our major sustainability goal is to increase the percentage of sustainable food purchased for the medical center. We have a committee in our department that meets every two weeks to help steer us to that end. We are also bound by a policy from the UC system that 20% of total food dollars has to be spent on sustainable foods by the year 2020. With help from SF PSR, we want to break that goal next year.

Interview by Emily Galpern