“Farm to Table”: An Innovative Way to Improve Population Health

By Bonni Kaplan DeWoskin, Vice President, Marketing


As a marketer, I’m always curious about new and interesting ways organizations—particularly healthcare organizations—market themselves. A recent article in Modern Healthcare about health systems using their food service as part of population health was really instructive.

Historically, when we think of hospital food, we put it on the same caliber as our elementary school cafeteria: edible, but not great.

However, some healthcare organizations around the country have stepped up their food service significantly, with the goal of attracting people who don’t “have to” eat there. One hospital profiled set out to make the cafeteria a focal point of nutritional wellness for the entire community. The cafeteria chefs have eliminated processed and fried foods and consult with local farmers and suppliers to create seasonal menus that they call “plow to plate.”

Another health system hosts a variety of events, chef demonstrations, wellness seminars and community meals for the elderly and disadvantaged in its communities. They even organize grocery-store tours to help community members learn how to shop for healthier food.

Many healthcare organizations are also sending their chefs and dietitians into the community to help improve the health of residents.

This approach of engaging with the wider community addresses the financial need of making food service operations more cost-effective, while identifying additional potential sources of revenue. By pushing the message out there that the food is good and offering outreach to the community, health systems are building tremendous good will and helping with population health by keeping local residents healthier in the first place.

I applaud this kind of approach to population health. This isn’t a marketing gimmick, but a genuine way to improve the health of the community and the financial health of the organization. That’s a marketing “win” in my book.


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