UC Davis Health chef joins leaders seeking solutions to end hunger, improve nutrition and eliminate disparities
UC Davis Health Executive Chef Santana Diaz was invited to participate in the White House Hunger, Nutrition, and Health Conference last week in Washington D.C.
Led by Members of Congress from across the political spectrum – including U.S. Representative Jim McGovern, a Democrat from Massachusetts, the 2022 White House Conference was a gathering of public and private leaders. Their goal was a coordinated strategy to accelerate progress and drive transformative change in the United States to end hunger, improve nutrition and physical activity, and close the disparities surrounding them.
“We have to change our systems, which are tough to change even when everyone says we need to change them,” McGovern explained. “My hope is this conference will be the impetus to be transformational – especially in the food is medicine realm.”
It's been more than 50 years since the first and only White House Conference on Food, Nutrition, and Health was held in 1969. That pivotal event helped galvanize actions that included the creation of life changing programs like school lunches, the Supplemental Feeding Program for Women Infants and Children (WIC), and changes to how we label foods.
“I am humbled and proud to work in support of the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health to help bring better health to Americans,” Diaz said. “I have always been passionate about food and empowering people on their journey toward health and wellness. This amazing collaboration will allow us to help people on a larger scale than ever before.”
Good food is good medicine
Diaz explained to the representatives how the Food and Nutrition Services team is using healthy, locally grown foods in the hospital cafe, at catered events and, most importantly, for patient meals.
Good food is good medicine. When we reduce the unnecessary additives and preservatives of the food we consume, educate our patients, visitors and staff, we ultimately make a healthier community.”
“Our food service model is focused on local sourcing, nutrition and taste,” Diaz said. “Good food is good medicine. When we reduce the unnecessary additives and preservatives of the food we consume, educate our patients, visitors and staff, we ultimately make a healthier community.”
In addition to the luncheon, Diaz led the representatives on a tour of the Medical Center's Pavilion Cafe and main commissary kitchen. Throughout the tour, he highlighted the team's efforts with advanced sustainability programs and explained how the kitchen produces more than 6,500 meals a day at its three locations on the Sacramento campus.
“UC Davis Health has a model that should be replicated across the country,” McGovern shared during his visit. “We need to highlight these best practices to show others how this ‘Food as Medicine’ transformation can work.”
Spreading his message
Joining Diaz at the White House Hunger, Nutrition, and Health Conference in Washington D.C. were fellow Sacramentans Rep. Matsui and Patrick Mulvaney, proprietor and chef of Mulvaney’s B&L.
“Sacramento is the Farm-to-Fork Capital, and I’m excited that local leaders Patrick Mulvaney and Santana Diaz are here as advocates to share how they’re improving food access and promoting food as medicine in our region,” Matsui posted on social media. “We have much to do to increase healthy eating and reduce health disparities across the country, and I’m proud that Sacramento is leading the progress on achieving these goals.”
Diaz hopes UC Davis Health‘s Food and Nutrition Services food operation becomes a model for other health care facilities around the country. A Commitment to sustainable, healthy food practices that promote healing and long-term community health is the ultimate goal.