Congressional leader travels to Davis, praises hospital food and nutrition program

UC Davis Health Executive Chef Santana Diaz shares with Rules Committee Chairman McGovern and Congressman Garamendi why 'good food is good medicine'

SACRAMENTO — Two members of the U.S. Congress, Rules Committee Chairman Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Massachusetts) and Rep. John Garamendi (D-California), visited UC Davis this week. They met with several experts to learn about the innovative solutions to health, hunger and poverty that are being developed on both the Davis and Sacramento campuses.

One of the highlights of the Aug. 17 visit was a presentation by UC Davis Health’s executive chef Santana Diaz. Recently named lead chef for the prestigious Tower Bridge Dinner, Diaz oversees the enormous kitchen at UC Davis Medical Center. It’s one of the largest production kitchens in the region, serving more than 6,500 meals per day at three locations on the Sacramento campus.

Diaz explained to the representatives how the Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) team is using healthful, whole foods in the hospital café, at catered events and, importantly, for patient meals.

“Good food is good medicine, and it’s good for the local economy,” said Diaz. “In addition to providing quality meals to our patients and other customers, we’re sourcing from local farms as much as possible. This means an economic boost for local farmers, who can count on us to provide them with the produce volumes needed for the year so they can plan and plant ahead. Not to mention, locally grown food tastes better.”

Rep. Garamendi’s congressional district includes Davis. He and Chairman McGovern expressed appreciation for the FNS program at UC Davis Health.

“You don’t often think of hospital food as being fresh and delicious. This food service model is something I would love to see replicated across the nation.”

— Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA)
Rules Committee Chairman

“I’m always interested in learning about innovative programs in health care,” said McGovern, whose home state of Massachusetts is home to several leading hospitals. “You don’t often think of hospital food as being fresh and delicious. This food service model is something I would love to see replicated across the nation. It’s a win-win for patients and food producers alike.”

“Fresh, local foods are good for patient health and the environment,” said Garamendi, a lifelong rancher who also operates a pear farm in Walnut Grove. “By staying local, UC Davis Health is reducing fuel consumption and lowering its carbon footprint. The team is also promoting plant-based options. All of these are positive steps to help combat climate change.”

In addition to meeting with Diaz, the representatives took part in discussions with UC Davis experts on topics including international and domestic health, poverty, agricultural growth and UC Davis’s work in innovating systemic solutions to address hunger and health. They also visited the UC Davis Student Farm, a 23-acre space where students can create and learn about sustainable food systems.