Amid a flurry of chopping parsnips, rutabagas, and sweet potatoes for a holiday meal at Kalispell Regional Medical Center (KRMC), head chef Seth Bostick was able to set aside a few minutes to discuss his version of (and vision for) Kalispell’s Farm to Hospital program.
“I incorporate local foods any way I can; soups, sauces, whatever. If it’s available, I buy it,” he says enthusiastically.
Charged with preparing nearly 2,000 meals a day, 850 of which are patient meals, Bostick tries to ensure that hospital guests and staff are served food that is fresh, nutritious, and locally sourced when possible.
KRMC began incorporating local foods into their meal program nearly a decade ago. Since Bostick entered as head chef three years ago, he has worked hard to increase the amount of local food already served at the institution.
Bostick partners with local farms and co-ops to meet the needs of the hospital’s food program. He purchases herbs, tomatoes, and chilies from Mountain View Garden in the Flathead Valley; premium grassfed beef from Big Sky Natural Beef in Dell, Montana; herbs and garlic from Barton Farms; and bread products from Ceres Bakery in Kalispell. Montana Flour and Grain sells the medical center peas, lentils, kamut, grains, cereals and flours used in their baked goods. The majority of Bostick’s order is filled through Western Montana Growers’ Cooperative, a co-op that aggregates produce, meat, and cheese from producers in Western Montana to meet the high-quantity demands of large buyers such as Kalispell’s Medical Center.
Bostick acknowledges that local foods can be more expensive at times, but he believes it’s worth it. KRMC tries to offset any higher prices associated with purchasing local food by purchasing other larger quantity items for a lower cost. In addition, Bostick says that typically he pays more in the summer for his food needs than in the winter, which again balances out at the end of the year. This ability to mix and match products works well for Bostick and gives him some flexibility with the medical center’s food budget.
As a chef who knows and appreciates high quality food, Bostick is quick to note the rewards of incorporating healthy, locally-grown foods into his meals as well. “It sells itself,” he states simply. He also likes that his purchases from regional vendors helps KRMC contribute to the area’s economy. “I want to know my farmers,” Bostick says. “I want to know their kids. I want to know how the money I am spending is being used, and that it is staying within the local community.”
When asked what advice he could offer an institution looking to incorporate local foods into their meal plans, Bostick says, “Start small. Start with one product you can use all the time. Use recipes that work and expand from there. The farmer you buy your product from knows other farmers, and you can expand from there.”