Sarah Heise shares how her team at UC Davis Health partnered with their executive chef to showcase how the health system is leading the change from traditional hospital food to healthy food as medicine

Because everyone's focusing on healthcare-related topics, we saw this as a way to set us apart from what other hospitals are doing. Sarah Heise

A year and a half ago, Executive Chef Santana Diaz started at UC Davis Health with a focus on moving their health system’s food in a healthier direction. With that new mindset, Digital Content Strategist Sarah Heise and her team got to work finding a way to create new content around the unique focus.

“For us, it was important that we start creating our own content in our own space,” said Sarah. “Because everyone’s focusing on healthcare-related topics, we saw this as a way to set us apart from what other hospitals are doing.”

According to Sarah, the focus had the added benefit of being a social-friendly topic in their region.

Located in Sacramento, known as “America’s Farm-to-Fork Capital” due to the many ranchers and farmers in the area, UC Davis Health is situated centrally to work with local growers. This allows the health system to contribute to the area’s economy while getting farm-fresh food in their hospital.

“This unique effort gives us an opportunity to share UC Davis Health’s contributions to the farm-to-fork movement in social chatter while still focusing on the health of our community,” she said.

Their social media manager, Lauren Suedkamp, attended Sacramento’s Farm-to-Fork Festival in September 2019 on behalf of UC Davis Health and developed content around it for their channels. This is where the inspiration for a food blog came from.

They also collaborated with their executive chef about his tagline – “good food is good medicine” – which they adapted to their blog.

A couple months later, the team decided to create a blog where they could showcase the work happening at their health system and it launched in April of this year.

The goal of this blog was to feature not only their Food and Nutrition Services, but also other departments across the hospital.

This unique effort gives us an opportunity to share UC Davis Health's contributions to the farm-to-fork movement in social chatter while still focusing on the health of our community. Sarah Heise
“We’ve talked to pediatricians for kid-focused content, and we’ve talked about healthy aging and what kinds of foods you should eat as you age,” said Sarah. “We’ve also showcased our work to make the hospital food menu healthier and more local, as well as provided tips for employees and patients on where they can get healthy food here at the health system.”

Along with the launch of the blog, Sarah and her team started shifting their focus to promotions across their social channels.

“We made sure we had a content calendar and a plan for where we were going to promote blog posts on our social channels,” she said. “Our goal is to engage audiences in the concept of food as medicine.”

For this year’s Farm-to-Fork Festival, the social media team did an Instagram takeover for an entire weekend on Visit Sacramento’s Instagram page, which has more than 100,000 followers.

The takeover featured nine posts, including videos produced exclusively for Instagram, and reached more than 248,000 people with 4,200 engagements.

As they’re fleshing out this farm-to-fork content strategy, Sarah said one of the key factors is timeliness.

“For example, we did a post on meatless burgers when we saw meat alternatives trending online,” she said. “We did barbecue tips for the Fourth of July, and we did school lunches for kids during back-to-school season. We always want the content we’re posting on our blog and social channels to be relevant.”

Our goal is to engage audiences in the concept of food as medicine. Sarah Heise
She said the team also uses big events as an opportunity to promote and partner with their dieticians.

Through these efforts, Sarah said they’ve been able to fill their content calendar and plan out three to five posts, and their respective social media promotions, per month.

Sarah said now they’re hoping to evolve their farm-to-fork content strategy.

“We’re looking at it from a couple of different angles,” she said. “Eventually we want to visit one of the ranches we work with and do a profile on how ranchers are cultivating their food and what the partnership with UC Davis Health means to growers.”

While the results are still coming in, Sarah emphasized that internally, everyone has been happy to showcase this content.

We created a content calendar and have devised a solid plan for our social channels to accompany each of our blog posts. Sarah Heise
“It’s a way for faculty and staff to showcase what they’re doing in a way that’s relatable to patients and other employees,” she said. “We write the blog for a lay audience, so it is understandable and easy to read.”

Through this work, Sarah said one of her major takeaways has been the importance of planning ahead.

“When we first started this, we weren’t focused on preplanning with our collaborators,” she said. “We created a content calendar and have devised a solid plan for our social channels to accompany each of our blog posts.”

Even though this plan continues to evolve, Sarah said showcasing UC Davis Health’s work in Food and Nutrition Services has proven valuable as a differentiating factor for the health system.

“This is our chance to showcase how we’re revolutionizing hospital food,” she said. “The Food and Nutrition Services Team is committed to proving sustainable, healthy food practices are possible and will result in more nutritious hospital foods that promote healing.”

Sarah Heise has been a member of SocialMedia.org Health since 2019. You can follow her on LinkedIn.