Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) is challenging hospitals to serve less meat in order to help reduce greenhouse gases. Hospitals that take the Balanced Menus Challenge pledge to reduce the amount of meat they serve by 20 percent within 12 months of accepting the challenge.
As HCWH points out, meat and dairy production accounts for 18% of all greenhouse gas emissions, more than all of Earth’s cars, trains, and planes put together. Going meatless, at least for one day a week, may be the most important thing anyone can do to reduce their carbon footprint.
So far, at least 14 hospitals are participating in the Balanced Meals initiative, serving less meat to patients and in the cafeterias. If the comments in HCWH’s press release are any indication, these institutions are very enthusiastic about the endeavor, not only because it helps halt global warming and promote good health, but also because it is easy and cost effective.
As Linda Hansen, the director of nutrition services at St. Joseph Health System in Sonoma County, California, said “It was amazingly simple to make an impact on our carbon footprint by starting with small changes that were easy to implement and working our way up to the patient menu which is more complicated. Almost immediately, cafeteria customers began requesting more vegetarian and vegan options. By implementing Balanced Menus, we are able to remain cost neutral, or even sometimes achieve savings for the hospital, not to mention the savings to our healthcare system that result from providing patients, staff and visitors healthier foods.”
This program makes sense on so many levels. By serving more vegetarian foods, hospitals can not only help halt climate change and reduce air and water pollution, they can truly help save lives. Vegetarians are known to have lower rates of heart disease, stroke, obesity, diabetes, and certain cancers. And since hospitals are supposed to help stop pain and suffering, it’s only logical for them to serve meatless meals. After all, there’s enough death at the hospital to start with—who wants part of a dead animal on their plate?
It seems the only benefit to serving meat at the hospital is that guests are in the right place for angioplasty or bypass surgery after they eat one too many fatty, cholesterol-laden meals.
I admire HCWH for launching this impressive initiative and hope more and more hospitals will take the challenge. If you work at a hospital or other health care facility, why not sign up or propose the idea to the staff and administrators?
Cooper Medical Center