Hospital food service directors are faced with a unique set of challenges. They must develop menus that serve hundreds if not thousands of diners each day while adhering to tight budgets and planning deadlines. They must also be conscious of a wide variety of dietary restrictions and are even called upon to cater to special events or functions within the facility.Nonetheless, these food service directors and hospital chefs should find opportunities to share a message of health and wellness to their patients, families, and employees.
Menu planning can be a daunting task at any volume, and hospitals certainly see a lot of traffic coming through their dining room on any given day. Just as with a school cafeteria or hotel restaurant, though, hospital dining doesn’t have to sacrifice variety for volume.
In 2017, New York nonprofit Norwell Health hired Michelin Star Chef Bruno Tison to help train and empower hospital chefs in the area to create inspired, delicious meals for their hospital communities. The purpose behind spicing up the hospital menus was simple according to Chef Tison, who said, "We want to keep patients and employees healthy and we want our patients to look forward to a great meal."
All great food starts with great ingredients, and hospital food is no exception. In fact, high-quality ingredients may be even more relevant in hospital dining than it is anywhere else. Numerous studies have shown a correlation between healthy eating and a reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, and many other common ailments that hospitals are actively trying to treat or cure. It only makes sense, then, that the food served in hospitals should work to do the same.
One of the biggest reasons hospitals may not serve such foods is cost. Fortunately, high-quality ingredients don’t have to blow up a hospital’s budget, especially if they partner with a local distributor who sees the value in their mission and is willing to partner with them in a meaningful way.
Due to the wide variety of ailments being treated at hospitals, their food service departments are often very familiar with accommodating a breadth of dietary restrictions. These special diets are a vital component of their patients’ treatment plans, which may be rendered less effective without them.
Hospitals should also accommodate non-medical dietary restrictions and preferences. As a place of healing, hospitals are welcoming to all people from different walks of life. Their food service menus should reflect that inclusive philosophy by providing options suitable to diners with dietary needs based on religion, culture, or sensitivities.
In fact, California recently passed a law stating that hospitals “have a particular responsibility to provide a diversity of healthy meals that are acceptable to most religions, those with ethical dietary beliefs, and those with known food sensitivities.”
Hospitals are already a great source of information for their communities on all things health and wellness, so it makes perfect sense that they would also provide valuable insight into nutrition and healthy eating. The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, for example, has an educational program to teach healthy eating habits to children with diabetes.
Ultimately, hospitals not only help their patients feel better, but they also help them live better and healthier lives—which often starts with what they eat.
If you have questions about how Native Maine could help your hospital provide healthy meals, please contact us online or call us at (207) 856-1100.