Fresh, Local Food Part of a Growing Movement at Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital

As a Registered Nurse at Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital (SNMH), Erin Berquist believes that everyone deserves to be happy and healthy. With support from Sierra Harvest, she is leading the Green Team at the hospital to make some big changes in the hospital’s food ecosystem to increase happiness and health among hospital employees and patients.

This month, SNMH employees enjoyed fresh, local persimmons from Pearson Family Farm in the hospital cafeteria. Last month it was broccoli from Mountain Bounty Farm. The hospital joins 26 Western Nevada County schools in receiving a selection of local produce each month through Sierra Harvest’s Harvest of the Month program. While strict regulations make it especially challenging to get local produce on the menu for patients, Erin is working towards it. The addition of local produce to the hospital cafeteria is just the latest change in a series of efforts around food.

Erin started working with the Green Team in 2008, implementing a recycling program at the hospital. She made the hospital a CSA drop-off point, which has been tremendously popular among employees. After attending a “Clean Med” conference that exposed her to a myriad of ways of making hospitals greener, Erin was inspired to do more. She is starting a composting program at the hospital this month, and is working with Sierra Harvest to get a Sierra Garden planted at the hospital.

Erin’s vision for the hospital’s future from an ecology perspective is ambitious and inspiring: “We want to empower people to take care of themselves,” she said. “We want to help people make better life choices. How do we reduce our carbon footprint while still helping people?” She would like to see a closed circle, where employees and patients eat food that is grown in the garden, the compost is used to feed the garden’s soil, and everyone at the hospital is aware of that process. “The hospital employs so many people and has such a huge influence — there is potential for an incredible symbiotic relationship,” she said.

The road ahead is challenging, but Erin is optimistic that with help from supportive employees like interim Food Service Director Curtis Glenn and community partners, she can make her vision a reality. “None of this would be possible without Sierra Harvest,” she said. “Sierra Harvest has my back — they are my cheerleaders.” Keep up the good work, Erin!