UC Davis Health researchers received a 450,000 grant to increase the health system’s ability to work with farmers who focus on specific crops. These crops include fruits, vegetables, tree nuts and dried fruits.
Fred Meyers, director of the UC Davis Center for Precision Medicine and Data Science, and Roent Reidberg, manager of the Centre’s Precision Nutrition Program, will lead the project to help build a “farm to hospital” model at UC Davis Health. Santana Diaz, executive chef at Food and Nutrition Services, and her team have been working toward this goal since 2017 when Diaz joined the health system.
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“Our center team believes in the value of science,” Meyers said. “Not only is this project a natural fit for the way we do research, but we strongly believe in the role of food and nutrition in our health, especially through fresh fruits and vegetables. Why not make them extra fresh?” Make, and find them as close to the source as possible?
Specialty crops make up the majority of California’s agricultural production, which is a large part of the state’s agricultural economy. However, off-season demand and the desire for cheaper or processed products drive many stores and restaurants out of the state or Mexico. The money distances itself from local economies and contributes to climate change by transporting food more than 50 miles away.
It has been seen and felt in the Sacramento area. Between 2012 and 2017, the number of farms in the Sacramento region decreased as farmers struggled financially. The economic crisis caused by COVID-19 further emphasized the regional food system.
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UC Davis Health has the second largest production kitchen in Sacramento. It spends 1. 1.63 million a year on production to serve 2.4 million meals a year. Further changes to seasonal menus that use special crops from the region and California will show how the hospital can improve both the health of its patients and employees and the local economy.
“Clean, seasonal and sustainable foods are the foundation of active health,” Diaz said. “It starts with the trust and the transparency that we actually put into our bodies. Our local community can benefit from the ways that are available in our place.