Deborah Fleischer, Green Impact, February 2017

Roots and Shoots: UCSF’s Latest Program for Creating a Sustainable Food Future

Taking personal responsibility for our food choices is an effective way to reduce our carbon footprint. According to Inside Climate News, a recent report by the World Resources Institute (WRI) concludes that if people in developed countries cut their meat consumption to roughly half of what they eat now, greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture could shrink by 10 percent and agricultural land use by 13 percent, cutting carbon dioxide emission from land-use changes by 168 billion tons by 2050.

A recent article in The Guardian reported, “… eating less meat could reduce global mortality by 6-10% and cut greenhouse gas emissions by 30-70%. Cattle and sheep are responsible for a significant proportion of these emissions. Meat production requires the use of huge amounts of pesticide, fertilizer, fuel, feed and water, and at the same time it releases significant greenhouse gases and toxic chemicals.”

Menus of Change Inspires Roots and Shoots

UCSF Health is a leader in the growing sustainable food movement amongst hospitals and promotes eating less meat as a strategy toward both a healthier body and a healthier planet. In addition to the ongoing Meatless Monday  program, which highlights vegetarian meal options on Mondays, UCSF Health has recently launched a new program:  Roots & Shoots, developed out of UCSF’s partnership with Menus of Change, an initiative by the Culinary Institute of America (CIA)  and the Harvard School of Public Health that aims to create a world-class network within the foodservice sector and beyond.

Menus of Change is working to create a long-term, practical vision for the integration of optimal nutrition and public health, environmental stewardship and restoration, and social responsibility concerns within the foodservice sector and beyond. Its members include chefs, nutrition and environmental scientists, farm and fisheries experts, foodservice executives, and policy makers. UCSF is the only medical center to date that has joined Menus of Change.

After attending a Menus of Change conference, Chuck Davies, Associate Director, Operations and Culinary Innovation, UCSF Health, Nutrition & Food Services, created a protein flip concept, Roots & Shoots, where customers have the opportunity to order a healthy meal that includes several salads with a small protein side. “Chefs and menu developers can rethink how meat is used by featuring it in smaller, supporting roles to healthier plant-based choices, and experimenting with meat as a condiment,” explains the Menus of Change Website.

“Roots & Shoots has received a warm welcome at UCSF. We feature more root vegetables and less meat, which is better for your heart and our planet,” explained Davies.

The Protein Flip

A protein flip is the idea that protein is the side and the main dish is vegetables and grains—a focus on small protein entrées and more vegetables/grains. Davies described, “We have a variety of salads that rotate—mostly whole grains, roasted vegetables, red rice, quinoa and a small, half-size, demi-sandwich, such as a grass-fed beef meat loaf sandwich.

Normally a customer will get three of the salads and one demi-sandwich.” The protein flip is putting the principle of “serve less read meat, less often” into practice. “ This is the way I cook at home, featuring more vegetables and whole grains, and cutting back on meat.  This can easily be replicated at home,” stressed Davies.

Coming soon will be a blended burger that mixes ground beef with mushrooms, a strategy being promoted by Health Care Without Harm to complement its HERE.

Learn More

Shifting Diets for a Sustainable Food Future

Designing a Renewable Food System

Health Care Without Harm, California Regional Website

Land, Irrigation Water, Greenhouse Gas, and Reactive Nitrogen Burdens of Meat, Eggs, and Dairy Production in the United States

Global Diets Link Environmental Sustainability and Human Health