UC Davis Medical Center became the first hospital in the nation, and the first Sacramento venue, to earn designation as a James Beard Foundation “Smart Catch Leader."
The foundation’s Smart Catch program is a sustainable seafood education platform that encourages chefs and restaurants to serve seafood that has been fished or farmed in environmentally responsible ways.
By becoming a Smart Catch Leader and earning the Smart Catch designation, food establishments can give consumers — in this case, UC Davis Medical Center patients, visitors and staff — a simple way to identify and support a responsible and sustainable entity when eating fish.
“This designation is unique because it’s unusual for a hospital’s food services program to qualify for such an accomplishment,” said Santana Diaz, executive chef for Food and Nutrition Services at the health system.
“The focus on local sourcing and sustainability measures while using clean, healthy food ingredients truly makes a difference," Diaz said. "And as part of UC Davis Health’s farm-to-fork emphasis, we view supporting clean, sustainable foods as a way to complement good health because it also involves a healthy environment.”
Offering training to chefs, restaurants on sustainability
UC Davis Medical Center serves seafood that patients, visitors and employees can be assured is fished or farmed in environmentally friendly way.
The purpose of the Smart Catch program, which offers training and support to chefs and restaurants, is to increase the sustainability of the seafood supply chain.
The Beard Foundation states that with “more than 90 percent of the world's fisheries either fully fished or overfished, preserving marine life to assure stable fishing stocks and promoting sustainably farmed options is more important than ever.”
Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch guidelines
Diaz noted that the Smart Catch program relies on two sources to gauge sustainability when assessing restaurants: Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program and the federal Fisheries Stock Sustainability Index, both of which also inform and guide the University of California’s sustainability practices in food service.
To earn designation, the medical center underwent a rigorous four-step assessment process that included meeting the foundation’s Smart Catch criteria. The Seafood Watch program has three color categories (green, yellow and red), with red meaning don’t buy because that's seafood that is “overfished or caught or farmed in ways that harm other marine life or the environment."
Below is a list of the Smart Catch criteria:
• Scores 80 percent or higher on back-to-back assessments
• Has two or fewer items designated as red
• Has eight percent or less “red” volume
• Completes at least three assessments each calendar year
• Serves no items listed as “endangered,” according to the International Union for Conservation and Natural Resources Red List of Threatened Species
“We have one of the largest production kitchens in Sacramento, serving an average 6,500 meals a day to patients, employees and visitors at three cafés on our Sacramento campus,” Diaz said. “Sustainable practices at this level, both in terms of institutional purchases and reducing food waste, can make an important difference for a healthier environment.”
Buying local foods while emphasizing sustainability
Over the past year, UC Davis Health has doubled its local and sustainable purchasing percentages for seafood, as well as produce, meats and dry goods. It’s been both a goal and a point of pride for the health system, which participates in the Cool Food Pledge program (part of the Health Care Without Harm effort). Diaz said that since joining the pledge, his department has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by more than 7 percent through better food procurement practices.
“Having UC Davis Medical Center earn national recognition from a prestigious culinary organization like the James Beard Foundation is delightful and almost surreal,” said Brad Simmons, interim CEO of the medical center. “Hospital food is not normally in the same sentence with top-flight restaurants. But as Chef Diaz often says, ‘Good food is good medicine,’ and it’s certainly good for the environment, too.”
The James Beard Foundation’s mission is to promote good food for good™. For more than 30 years, the James Beard Foundation has highlighted the centrality of food culture in our daily lives. Through the James Beard Awards, unique dining experiences at the James Beard House and around the country, scholarships, hands-on learning, and a variety of industry programs that educate and empower leaders in our community, the Foundation has built a platform for chefs and asserted the power of gastronomy to drive behavior, culture, and policy change around food. To that end, the Foundation has also created signature impact-oriented initiatives that include our Women’s Leadership Programs aimed at addressing the gender imbalance in the culinary industry; advocacy training through our Chefs Boot Camp for Policy and Change; and the James Beard Foundation Leadership Awards that shine a spotlight on successful change makers. The organization is committed to giving chefs and their colleagues a voice and the tools they need to make the world more sustainable, equitable, and delicious for everyone. For more information, please visit jamesbeard.org and follow @beardfoundation on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.