Kaiser Permanente, which is a provider and an insurer, is the largest nonprofit health care system in the country, with about 8 million members, 15,000 doctors and 170,000 employees, predominantly in western states. The sheer scale of Kaiser, which holds farmers’ markets at 30 sites, makes changing the way food is bought a challenge, but also an opportunity.
“We can leverage our size to create greater demand for healthy food,” Dr. Maring said. Kaiser Permanente Oakland, for example, serves 6,000 inpatient meals a day, 80 percent of which have no special restrictions.
“It’s difficult for farmers to crack the institutional supply chain,” he said. “We need a ‘universal adapter’ that can pair small producers with big customers.” Toward that end, he helped start a regional growers’ cooperative and joined the board of the nonprofit entity that administers it, the Community Alliance With Family Farmers.
Dr. Maring also envisions Kaiser’s role expanding into areas like environmental stewardship, and he has carved out a kind of subspecialty in institutional real estate, with the goal of eventually putting some of Kaiser’s undeveloped land into agriculture.
Thursday, September 23, 2010
doctors learning to cook