Concord Hospital is serving up fresh local food

Medical interventions aren’t the only treatments being delivered at Concord Hospital these days. Locally grown foods are also delivered to patients, staff and visitors of the Capital Region’s premier medical center.

The perspective of the medical community, hospital administrators and food service professionals collectively conclude that food is medicine. In fact, that term has a certain righteousness to it . . . don’t you think?

Concord Hospital Food Services Director Tom Serafin has long known the value of a strong local food supply.

“The health of our population largely depends on the health of our local food supply,” Serafin said, as he awaits the opening of the cafeteria’s freight elevator door.

Behind the door will be his next shipment of locally grown produce from, in this case, The Vegetable Ranch, an intermediate-sized farm in Warner. The door opens frequently these days, bringing in bounties that take all shapes and forms, sometimes different than the strangely uniform shapes of commercially produced items.

Serafin terms his relationship with local farmers, Hospital-Supported Agriculture (or HSA). He and his team have identified that the primary reason for doing this is not economics. In fact, he readily cites that it is more cost-effective to purchase produce from commercial operations. However, “we know this is the right thing to do,” Serafin said.

Currently, Concord Hospital works with over 10 local agricultural producers, and with new projects under way, Serafin anticipates this number to increase. He partners with the Merrimack County Conservation District, where Local Food Specialist Alyssa Lemmerman helps to identify farmers looking for an efficient outlet for distribution, and Serafin’s chefs seek the freshest, most nutritious ingredients. This is a win-win situation, where consumers and producers benefit symbiotically – similar to what you would expect to occur in nature.

Plant-based foods are the predominant items gleaned from the local farms, but animal products are showing up more frequently.

Grass-fed meats, eggs, milk and other dairy products are just some of the local animal-based commodities that are distributed throughout the organization.

In the past 18 months, the amount of locally sourced produce distributed throughout the organization has increased significantly.

Daily farmer’s markets, community-supported agriculture shares and hospital-supported agriculture contracts are responsible for over $220,000 of revenue injected into the local agricultural economy.

 

Jason Aziz is Wellness Coordinator and Health Educator, Concord Hospital’s Center for Health Promotion.

Aziz is a contributing member of the Capital Area Wellness Coalition (CAWC), which coordinates community resources and builds partnerships to create a culture of healthy living for everyone. The CAWC meets monthly on the second Wednesday at 8 a.m. at the Center for Health Promotion, 49 S. Main St. in Concord. Visit capwellness.org to learn more.

Author: Jason Aziz for the Insider

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