Stanford Hospital Introduces New Menu for Inpatients

STANFORD, Calif.— Stanford Hospital & Clinics announced today that it is launching a new daily dinner meal for inpatients featuring organic, locally grown, sustainable ingredients. The Stanford Hospital & Clinics Farm Fresh program was developed in collaboration with Jesse Cool, a nationally recognized Northern California chef, restaurateur and food writer who has been an advocate and leader in healthy eating for over 30 years.

The new inpatient menu option puts Stanford Hospital at the forefront of an emerging nationwide recognition that fresh, healthy food is a vital part of the healing process. The program debuts as groups ranging from the American Medical Association to the American Nurses Association have recently established policies to encourage hospitals and other health care facilities to serve patients healthier and ecologically sustainable foods with natural high nutritional quality. The American Public Health Association has also endorsed a similar policy.

The Stanford Hospital & Clinics Farm Fresh name evokes Stanford University’s origins as a stock farm for its founder California Governor Leland Stanford’s thoroughbreds. The University today is affectionately referred to as “the Farm” by its alumni, supporters and local community.  A century ago, visitors to the more than 8,000-acre Stanford farm could see acres of carrots, corn, barley, alfalfa, orchards and vineyards planted by Jane and Leland Stanford. 

"Once people are in the hospital, especially when they have major surgeries, their digestive systems do not work quite as well. This kind of food is perfect."

Robert Robbins, MD Chair, Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery, Stanford Hospital & Clinics

The ingredients for Stanford Hospital’s Farm Fresh meals will primarily come from growers and producers within a 200-mile radius of Stanford Medical Center, based on seasonal availability.  Among the items featured will be vegetables from local farms, olive oil from Napa Valley, strawberries from Watsonville, organic dairy from Petaluma, pasture raised range chickens and grass-fed range beef from Marin and Sonoma, and whole grain bread from a San Francisco bakery.

“Stanford Hospital is known for providing our patients with the latest medical advances and treatments in an environment that promotes healing,” said CEO Martha Marsh. “This exciting new approach to the food we serve our patients is not just an amenity. It is part of our commitment to help patients heal as quickly as possible and to feel comfortable and cared for while they are here.”

To create the new menu, Stanford Hospital’s executive chef Beni Velazquez worked with Cool, who is nationally recognized for her early and dedicated advocacy of organic food, grown locally with sustainable farming techniques. She is also a cookbook author and operates several restaurants in the Bay Area, including the Cool Café at the Stanford University Cantor Arts Center.

Velazquez, who joined SHC in December 2008, is a certified chef instructor with Culinary Institute of America, a former chef at the Ritz Carlton, and previously owned restaurants in Los Angeles and Las Vegas. 

Although Velazquez’ experience was with larger-scale food services than Cool has known, the two chefs immediately “spoke the same language,” Cool said. Velazquez is delighted with this step for the hospital. “I would never have thought of doing hospital food,” he said, “but Stanford has a vision and this is a very cutting edge program.”

Stanford’s Chair of the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery Robert Robbins, MD, was an early enthusiast for development of the new menu, inspired by meals at one of Cool’s local restaurants. “Once people are in the hospital, especially when they have major surgeries, their digestive systems do not work quite as well,” he said. “This kind of food is perfect.”
Cool’s creative approach to developing a new menu option at Stanford Hospital reflects a basic principle-simple is best. Soup is the centerpiece of the new menu, with seven seasonal options and chicken noodle with vegetables offered each week.

This summer’s first choices include roasted tomato soup with basil, rosemary and thyme; carrot ginger soup with curry; and corn soup with basil and smoked cheddar. A chicken noodle soup with vegetables, made with a long simmered broth will be offered daily. For patients who need extra protein, the vegetable soups can be bolstered with the addition of tofu, poached chicken or meatballs made from grass-fed beef. All the menu choices will be low in fat, salt and sugar.

Stanford Hospital and Cool are making the new recipes she developed for the hospital’s patients available online at Patients can take the recipes home by tearing off a section of the menus they receive while in the hospital, underscoring the message that whole foods, prepared at home, are an important contributor to well being.

Cool created the recipes and worked with Stanford Hospital to develop the food and its presentation with visual appeal in mind. The carrot ginger soup is a brilliant gold that delights the eye. The baked apple has a caramel-like burnish. The wedge of bread—rustic, warm and inviting—is irresistibly waiting to be dunked in the broth.

New tray liners feature scenes with images of Stanford’s farm heritage. The menu offers the type of descriptions more commonly found in restaurants than in hospitals. For example, the chicken noodle soup is “made from scratch, simmering organic ingredients for hours in our kitchen. The rich broth is poured over tiny noodles, bits of poached vegetables and tender, moist organic chicken. Just like mom’s, with nurturing care in every spoonful.” All of the serving implements and printed materials have been produced with sustainability in mind. The tray liner, the bowls, cups and utensils are all made from materials that are reusable, compostable or recyclable.

The health benefits of the new menu options are obvious, Marsh said. “Delicious comfort food such as a beautiful basil corn soup can also lift your spirits and that is another way to promote healing. Not only are we feeding people well when they are in our care, we are encouraging them to go home and think of cooking differently. That’s an important message in this program.”

 “If Stanford Hospital can play a leadership role in this area and be an advocate for organic, local and sustainable foods for patients, we’re proud to take that responsibility,” Marsh said.

About Stanford Hospital & Clinics
Stanford Hospital & Clinics is known worldwide for advanced treatment of complex disorders in areas such as cardiovascular care, cancer treatment, neurosciences, surgery, and organ transplants. Consistently ranked among the top institutions in the U.S. News & World Report annual list of "America's Best Hospitals," Stanford Hospital & Clinics is internationally recognized for translating medical breakthroughs into the care of patients. It is part of the Stanford University Medical Center, along with the Stanford University School of Medicine and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford. For more information, visit

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