Stanford Hospital & Clinics is launching a new menu for inpatients featuring organic, locally grown, sustainable ingredients. The hospital’s Farm Fresh program, developed in collaboration with celebrity chef Jesse Cool, will source as many ingredients as possible from growers and producers within a 200-mile radius of Stanford Medical Center, based on seasonal availability. Among the items featured will be vegetables from local farms, olive oil from Napa Valley, strawberries from Watsonville, organic dairy from Petaluma, pasture-raised range chickens and grass-fed range beef from Marin and Sonoma, and whole grain bread from a San Francisco bakery.
“Stanford Hospital is known for providing our patients with the latest medical advances and treatments in an environment that promotes healing,” says CEO Martha Marsh. “This exciting new approach to the food we serve our patients is not just an amenity. It is part of our commitment to help patients heal as quickly as possible and to feel comfortable and cared for while they are here.”
To create the new menu, Executive Chef Beni Velazquez worked with Cool, a prominent advocate of using organic food, grown locally with sustainable farming techniques. She is also a cookbook author and operates several restaurants in the Bay Area, including the Cool Café at the Stanford University Cantor Arts Center. Velazquez, who joined SHC last December, is a certified chef instructor with Culinary Institute of America, a former chef at the Ritz Carlton, and previously owned restaurants in Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
Although Velazquez’ experience was with larger-scale food services than Cool has known, the two chefs immediately “spoke the same language,” Cool says. Velazquez is delighted with this step for the hospital. “I would never have thought of doing hospital food,” he says, “but Stanford has a vision and this is a very cutting edge program.”
Soup is the centerpiece of the new menu, with seven seasonal options and chicken noodle soup with vegetables offered each week. This summer’s first choices include roasted tomato soup with basil, rosemary and thyme; carrot ginger soup with curry; and corn soup with basil and smoked cheddar. A chicken noodle soup with vegetables, made with a long simmered broth will be offered daily. For patients who need extra protein, the vegetable soups can be bolstered with the addition of tofu, poached chicken or meatballs made from grass-fed beef. All the menu choices will be low in fat, salt and sugar.
Stanford Hospital and Cool are making the soup recipes Cool developed for the hospital’s patients available online at stanfordhospital.org/farmfresh. Patients can also take the recipes home by tearing off a section of the menus they receive while in the hospital, underscoring the message that whole foods, prepared at home, are an important contributor to well being.
Cool created the recipes and worked with Stanford Hospital to develop the food and its presentation with visual appeal in mind. The carrot ginger soup is a brilliant gold that delights the eye. The baked apple has a caramel-like burnish. The wedge of bread—rustic, warm and inviting—is irresistibly waiting to be dunked in the broth.
New tray liners feature scenes with images of Stanford’s farm heritage. The menu offers the type of descriptions more commonly found in restaurants than in hospitals. For example, the chicken noodle soup is “made from scratch, simmering organic ingredients for hours in our kitchen. The rich broth is poured over tiny noodles, bits of poached vegetables and tender, moist organic chicken. Just like mom’s, with nurturing care in every spoonful.” All of the serving implements and printed materials have been produced with sustainability in mind. The tray liner, the bowls, cups and utensils are all made from materials that are reusable, compostable or recyclable.
The health benefits of the new menu options are obvious, CEO Marsh says. “Delicious comfort food such as a beautiful basil corn soup can also lift your spirits and that is another way to promote healing. Not only are we feeding people well when they are in our care, we are encouraging them to go home and think of cooking differently. That’s an important message in this program. If Stanford Hospital can play a leadership role in this area and be an advocate for organic, local and sustainable foods for patients, we’re proud to take that responsibility.”