Farm to the Table: UW Health Takes New Steps Toward Sustainability and Sees Sales Take Off

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Madison, Wisconsin - A little more than a year after eliminating sugary drinks, University Hospital has slashed the price of its salad bar and started sourcing nearly all of its lettuce locally. In the first month since the salad-bar price change, sales have skyrocketed; more than 5,000 additional salads were sold compared to the month of December 2015.


UW Health's emphasis on local foods has resulted in healthy foods and increased sales."We are committed to making the healthy choice the easy choice and more affordable choice," said UW Health executive chef Ellen Ritter.  "We've heard great feedback about the lettuce and the price decrease has incentivized more people to choose the salad bar. We are seeing big results and we have big plans to change the culture of hospital food."


On January 1, the hospital kicked off its 52 weeks of culinary wellness campaign by reducing the cost of the salad bar by nearly 50 percent. It went from around $8 per pound to the current $4.99 a pound. In that one month nearly 5,000 more salads were sold than in the previous month. (13,479 in December 2015 vs 18,302 in January 2016.)  It's a trend that is expected to continue.


The hospital also has partnered with Clean Fresh Foods in Belleville, WI to source most of the hospital's lettuce to serve to patients, staff and visitors in the cafeteria and patient rooms.


UW Hospital buys all of its romaine lettuce, some 300 heads per week, and 60 heads of mixed greens from this local company.  The lettuce is grown in an indoor aquaponics system, where fish tanks help grow plants. Waste from the fish gets transferred into another tank filled with good bacteria and those bacteria break down the waste into nutrients for the plants in the green house. Lettuce is grown year-round and without pesticides.


The partnership with Clean Fresh Foods began officially in November. Lisa Bote, sous chef at UW Hospital who works with Ritter on these initiatives, adds: "No one wants to come to a hospital so if our great locally sourced, healthy food can provide an oasis for them, that's great."


UW Hospital also sources baby bok choy for the Asian dishes and the goal next month is to source all the green leaf for sandwich, grill stations and patient meals. Spinach and iceberg lettuce is still available from other suppliers.


To learn more about the healthy culinary initiatives at UW Health visit the Facebook page: Culinary Services  at UW Health or follow them on Instagram at UWHealthEats.

Date Published: 02/25/2016

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