Friday Food: Executive Chef Santana Diaz, UC Davis Medical Center

Formerly Executive Chef for the Golden 1 Center, Executive Chef Santana Diaz now brings farm-to-fork and sustainability practices to UC Davis Medical Center. UCD Medical Center has became the first hospital in the nation, and the first Sacramento venue, to earn designation as a James Beard Foundation “Smart Catch Leader."

Real food procurement: sourcing more locally produced foods, including menus featuring UC Davis-produced honey and olive oil.

Education: Building more awareness about healthy, sustainable foods among staff, visitors and patients so as to improve health overall and enhance healing. As an academic medical center, UC Davis is a top training location for dietitians who plan to work in health care, especially in the patient-care environment of hospitals.

Active community engagement: The UC Davis mission is to discover and share knowledge. Diaz often works in the local community, including the health system’s weekly farmers’ market, as well as conducting cooking demonstrations at events to expand awareness about healthy foods and eating.

Less waste operations: The focus on reducing waste is always a challenge for large institutions. Reducing waste can mean reducing costs and being more environmentally friendly. The University of California’s goal is strive to procure 20 percent sustainable food products (meaning local/community-based, fair, ecologically sound and humane food sources) by the year 2020. UC Davis Health is currently at 16 percent of that goal, but Diaz hopes to go well beyond 20 percent by year’s end.

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