Healthy Food, Healthier Futures Project
Healthy Food, Healthier Futures is a Michigan-based program of the national coalition Healthcare Without Harm, which focuses on greening the health care sector. Healthy Food, Healthier Futures, a project of the Ecology Center in Ann Arbor, is primarily focused on food and its connection to the health of humans and environment and works to leverage the purchasing power of the health care sector to create a more sustainable food system.
Michigan Nightlight: In your view, what makes your program innovative, effective or remarkable?
Healthy Food in Health Care Program Director Hillary Bisnett
: The program is about systems-level change, and I think that’s really important to complementing the work currently going on with Detroit urban farms and other programs like that. When we start tackling the system of how we define food as healthy and leveraging purchasing power to shift the structure, we’re also asking food processors to come back to Michigan, and asking more growers to grow a diversity of crops as opposed to When we start tackling the system of how we define food as healthy and leveraging purchasing power to shift the structure, we’re also asking food processors to come back to Michigan...
just soybeans and corn, that’s effective in working at the systems level.
What was the best lesson learned in the past year?
To stick with it and continue asking questions and challenging our partners, the hospitals, more. We’re in conversation with St. John’s Hospital to continuously think through what they can do to link patients to more sustainable local foods. We know one of the biggest limitations to access to healthy affordable food is transportation, so we’re trying to connect participants in St. John’s Mother Nurture Program with the Fresh Food Share program in Detroit, where they will go home with a box of fruits and vegetables. It’s a huge opportunity. It’s a lesson we continue to learn – there are no limitations to this work and exciting opportunities with more people to meet with and talk to.
What was the hardest lesson learned in the past year?
The hardest lesson is to be patient when working at the systems level – it takes time. There is a lot of momentum in the state; for example, we’re working with Detroit hospitals to engage with state initiatives for healthy food in hospitals and improving pediatric food menus for children in hospitals. We’re working on hospitals buying local and sustainable foods. We had 114 hospitals sign on including all three major systems in Detroit. We have their commitment, and we have their ear.
What really differentiates this program?
In comparing us to other farm to institution or other farm to school programs, I think the difference is the health connection. People are concerned about obesity and diabetes, and I think our program really has stepped up – we can meet health professionals where they are at and can apply food systems perspectives to what they are working on. They’re pretty much ...we’re working with Detroit hospitals to engage with state initiatives for healthy food in hospitals and improving pediatric food menus for children in hospitals.
open and willing to do it.
What are the keys to success for your program?
Relationship building. I started in 2009, and it took a couple years to establish strong relationships with hospitals and other community partners and use the principles of working at the systems level and with cross-sector collaborations. Where we’ve gained the most success is when partnering with other like-minded people. We just finished our first year, and we have more hope down the road to work at the policy level.
How do you innovate programming? Where do the ideas come from? How do you know if they are going to work?
There are two components there: one is being connected to the National Health Care Without Harm Coalition. Within that, there are other organizations we are connected to all over the country. We’re lucky to have them as sort of our sounding board. In many situations they have already done something similar, and in working with them and being part of Healthcare Without Harm Coalition we discover the best way to think about new models or new, promising approaches for the work.