New Democrat leader Adrian Dix was in Abbotsford on Tuesday, promoting local foods for the region's hospitals, a policy that is good for patients and the local economy, he said.
His advocacy was triggered by his party's freedom of information request, which he said reveals the Fraser Health Authority doesn't track its food sources, data needed for a 'buy local' policy.
"The Fraser Valley has some of the best agricultural land in B.C. It is also home to one of the province's largest health authorities, serving a
patient population of 1.6 million and growing. However, there is still no formal relationship between the two," said Dix.
In a release, the party also noted that in a Fraser Health acute care patient survey, only 54 per cent of respondents rated hospital food satisfactory.
Dix also cited a Harvard University study that said "money spent at a local farm circulates within that community between six and 15 times, supporting local farms, businesses, people, and communities."
But Vancouver Coastal Health spokeswoman Anna Marie D'Angelo said Fraser Health does in fact serve in-season B.C. fruits and vegetables, as well as other locally grown and processed foods such as dairy, meats and breads.
"Local menu items from B.C. that we serve fresh in facilities include fruits and vegetables such as carrots, apples, peaches, all the berries, green beans and broccoli," she said.
Regional hospital food service contracts are managed by Lower Mainland Business Initiatives & Support Services, consolidating the work for Fraser Health, VCH, Provincial Health Services Authority and Providence Health to reduce upper-level administration, she said. Gordon Food Services provides the actual food.
Fraser Health serves five million patient meals a year in its hospitals and residential facilities, so food quality is vital, said D'Angelo.
"It's a very big undertaking. We're always looking at healthy food choices and to improve menus. Fraser Health is constantly reviewing its food services . . . and we also survey patients for their opinions," she said.
Most facilities, including Abbotsford Regional Hospital, also prepare meals fresh on site, and nutritionists follow health authority and Canada Food Guide standards.
D'Angelo added that "hospital food will always taste like hospital food" - a little bland - because of its low sodium contact, and because meals have to be digestible for recovering patients who may have food restrictions.