Stanford Hospital launches organic menu option for patients

- By Sara Wykes

Norbert von der Groeben Farm Fresh

Jesse Cool and SHC executive chef Beni Velazquez collaborated on the new organic menu being offered to hospital patients.

Stanford Hospital & Clinics has launched a new daily dinner meal for inpatients featuring organic, locally grown, sustainable ingredients. The SHC 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 more than 30 years.

The new inpatient menu option, which began being offered on Aug. 10, puts Stanford Hospital at the forefront of an emerging nationwide recognition that fresh, healthy food is a vital part of the healing process. 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 Farm Fresh name evokes Stanford University’s origins as a stock farm for the thoroughbreds owned by its founder, California Gov. Leland Stanford. A century ago, visitors to the more than 8,000-acre Stanford farm could see acres of carrots, corn, barley, alfalfa, orchards and vineyards.

The ingredients for 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 Stanford’s 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.

Robert Robbins, MD, professor and chair of cardiothoracic surgery, was an early enthusiast for development of the new menu. “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.

The menu’s recipes are 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.

Sara Wykes is a writer for the Stanford Hospital & Clinics communications office.

About Stanford Medicine

Stanford Medicine is an integrated academic health system comprising the Stanford School of Medicine and adult and pediatric health care delivery systems. Together, they harness the full potential of biomedicine through collaborative research, education and clinical care for patients. For more information, please visit

2023 ISSUE 1

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