HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra visits UC Davis Medical Center to discuss food as medicine


UC Davis Medical Center's farm-to-hospital model took center stage Thursday during a visit from U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra.

The secretary, President Joe Biden’s point person for health policy, toured the cafeteria at UC Davis Medical Center to learn more about its "good food is good medicine" approach. He also announced a federal effort to tackle food insecurity and build healthier communities.

Three men stand together in a cafeteria.
Chef Santana Diaz lists the many ways the farm-to-hospital model benefits California communities.

UC Davis Health gained recognition in 2017 when its hospital kitchen adopted an institutionally scaled farm-to-fork model, which sources food from local farmers and ranchers. Locally sourced food reduces delivery mileage and fuel consumption, lowers the carbon footprint and boosts local businesses economically.

During his visit, Becerra toured the medical center's cafeteria. He witnessed firsthand the fresh produce offerings, like the peaches from Twin Peak Farms located 34 miles away in Newcastle.

"Let's be clear, food is medicine, and nutrition is health," Becerra said. "Our aim in this administration is to build a healthier America by shifting from a system that allows the price of prescription drugs to skyrocket to a system that starts by prescribing carrots, apples, asparagus, and other fruits and vegetables — and look to prescription medication only when necessary."

Let's be clear, food is medicine, and nutrition is health." Xavier Becerra, Health and Human Services Secretary

Following the tour, Becerra joined a roundtable discussion with UC Davis Chancellor Gary S. May and UC Davis Health CEO David Lubarsky. The conversation centered around the pressing issue of food insecurity and provided an opportunity to address nutrition inequities.

“I'm really proud Secretary Becerra has joined us,” said Lubarsky. “We pride ourselves on being on the cutting edge on what is to be given to patients. Probably the best thing we can give them is advice about how to stay healthy, how to eat healthy, how to be healthy and how to adjust their lifestyle choices so they don't need us at all.”

A group of people stand behind a podium, in front of a UC Davis Health backdrop
Chancellor Gary S. May introduces HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra

Talking with reporters, Becerra spoke about the Biden-Harris Administration's work to expand food as medicine programs through Medicaid demonstration projects to help ensure more children can access free lunch. This work is part of the president's vision to end hunger and reduce diet-related disease by 2030, first unveiled at the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health last year. The secretary also highlighted the White House Challenge to End Hunger and Build Healthy Communities. It’s a venture in which UC Davis Health has already taken part.

Becerra’s visit highlighted the importance of UC Davis Health’s efforts to support patients and the community through access to nutritious food and a strong agricultural framework.