Healthcare News & Insights

What your hospital can do to promote healthy eating for patients

Hospital food gets a bad rap, and it’s not entirely undeserved. Many facilities have bland food, and often it’s not as nutritious as providers or patients might want it to be. But healthy food can be expensive, and some hospitals may not have the money or resources to access quality ingredients. 

More hospitals are providing healthier food options to patients, staff and visitors than ever before, but there’s still room for improvement.

There are a few different ways to emphasize healthy eating not only in your hospital, but also in the surrounding community.

Make local purchases

Making an effort to buy more of your facility’s food from local sources is a good first step.

Grace Cottage Hospital in Townsend, VT, is doing just that, according to the American Hospital Association (AHA). Nearly 40% of its food is purchased from local sources in the community to add nutrition to patients’ diets.

It might be slightly more expensive, but it also helps support your community and improves your patients’ health – making it a win-win.

If your organization has the resources, take it one step further with a hospital garden. Stony Brook University Hospital in New York started a 2,242 square-foot rooftop garden that grows 33 different vegetables and herbs to be used in the hospital’s meals.

Giving patients who might not have access to healthy food at home the opportunity to eat healthy in the hospital helps them “maximize their health, potentially prevent disease progressions and develop good eating habits before they go home,” Josephine Connolly-Schoonen, the hospital’s nutrition director, told the AHA.

Expand your horizons

But what if space or resource constraints make a hospital garden a no-go? Consider partnering with other organizations to start a community garden.

“Produce can be expensive, but it doesn’t take a lot to start a community garden. It’s empowering, and involving children is key to establishing healthy eating habits early and emphasizing the importance of a plant-based diet,” Connolly-Schoonen added.

There might be other reasons to emphasize healthy eating: Using antibiotic-free meat and other products helps avoid the development of drug-resistant superbugs, which can cause serious problems for a hospital.

And giving people in the community the opportunity to grow their own food serves as a form of preventive care. Diet plays a big role in illnesses like diabetes, obesity and heart disease, so supporting a community garden can have a significant impact on patients’ health further down the line.

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