Question: Our hospital is involved in a community-wide environmental sustainability project and I was wondering if any of the components could be reported as community benefit.
The program has three components:
- Composting — done with other large institutions and the local farmer's market
- DIRT project — school based education on where food comes from. Goal is to address obesity by changing eating habits. Most of the schools where program is offered serve low-income students.
- Our hospital will provide land for a farm. A coalition will run the farm and train farmers in sustainable farming techniques. The food will be used by our hospital and the local farmer's market.
The identified need for these programs is obesity, which was identified as a major problem in our hospital's health assessment. While the community the hospital serves is not a typical food desert most of the food available to the community is produced through industrial agriculture which is not as healthy as the food produced through more sustainable methods…so in a sense the community is in a type of food desert. We feel that composting and farmer training are community building because these activities build capacity to produce foods without heavy use of pesticides and fertilizers — which can have harmful effects on health.
Recommendation: We recommend reporting activities related to increasing the availability of healthier food (including composting, education programs about healthy foods and where they come from, and sustainable farms) when the following apply:
- There is an identified community health need related to availability of healthy food, for example, obesity, diabetes heart disease and other conditions;
- The root cause of the identified need is related to the activity, for example, lack of availability of healthy food, lack of knowledge about healthy food, and
- The activity is part of a community-wide (at least one community partner) plan to address the health problem by increasing the availability of healthier foods or an overall facility plan to address the health problem by increasing the availability of healthier foods.
These activities would be reported in category A4, Social and Environmental Improvement Activities. In reporting such activities, report only the cost to the organization. For example, if an organization provides land for a farm, there must be an actual cost for this.