Hospitals should be a source of all-around health. Unfortunately, often the food in hospitals is neither delicious nor healthy. To teach patients, employees, and visitors about healthy food habits, hospitals need to join forces with efforts already in communities. Keep reading for top tips for hospitals that want to have healthier meals.
Join Forces with CSAs or Farmer’s Markets
Many hospitals are beginning to partner with markets and CSAs to make fresh and healthy food available for patients and staff on-site. Community members, patients, and hospital staff can benefit from CSAs when used with food prescription programs.
Hospitals should join with community gardens and local farmers to develop food prescription programs. They should also negotiate discounts for individuals who manage chronic diseases. This can improve the overall health of patients and community residents and increase the local economy.
Join Together with Mobile Food Programs
Some people live in areas where healthy food is not available. Transportation of food can be a barrier to healthy eating. Hospitals can join forces with mobile food programs or create transportation programs. They can then directly deliver healthy food to patients. This can be especially helpful to patients who are disabled or homebound.
Create a Healthy Food Pledge
Hospitals should cease and sign a Healthy Food Pledge. This policy has three main goals. The first goal is to decrease the amount of meat purchased. Typically a pledge will decrease meat by 20 percent within three years. The second goal is to increase healthy beverage purchases. An average of the hospital is to increase healthy beverages by 20 percent within three years. Finally, hospitals aim to increase the quantity of local and sustainable food.
Eliminate Fast Food from Hospitals
Many hospitals around the country contain fast food restaurants inside of them. Mcdonald’s, Chick-fil-A, and Wendy’s are some restaurants frequently found in hospitals. If hospitals want to encourage people to eat healthy food they must eliminate these unhealthy food options. People who eat fast food consume more calories and saturated fat, which leads to obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. Hospitals insisting on hosting fast-food restaurants should consider allowing them to offer healthy, cholesterol-free plant-based meals.
Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Programs
Hospitals can use fruit and vegetable prescription programs to improve patient health while helping the local economy. Food prescription programs help low-income patients access fresh fruits and vegetables. Usually, the program begins with a partnership between a hospital and a local CSA or market.
The program allows doctors to prescribe an amount of money to be spent on fruits and vegetables for their patients. Patients can purchase them from the market or CSA.
Food prescription programs are used more since the passage of the Affordable Care Act. Nonprofit hospitals and healthcare systems can participate in the community in innovative ways. Another farm bill provided funding giving grants to organizations like hospitals that work to increase healthy food in communities.
Food prescription programs are new, but pilot programs are showing great results in the health of communities. Studies from Detroit and states surrounding Washington D.C. showed that patients who utilized the prescription program increased their consumption of fruits and vegetables by an average of two cups. Most of the participants reported they were pleased with their weight management program. Finally, almost half of the children participating in the program decreased their body mass index.
Work with Federal Lawmakers to Make Positive Food Policies
Hospitals and healthcare systems are large businesses in their districts. They have a significant voice in Congress. They can encourage a shift from subsidizing unhealthy food to investing in healthy food. Currently, the U.S. government spends billions of dollars subsidizing farmers who raise soybeans and corn. Factories then use these crops to make unhealthy foods. Many policies also make it difficult for farmers who want to grow the healthy or organic produce that Americans need.
It is like American taxpayers paying twice. First, they pay for junk food subsidization, and then later have to pay to deal with food-related diseases like stroke and heart disease. Conservatives and health professionals are both upset at such a ridiculous system.
Be Active in the Food Policy Council
Hospitals should be active in their local Food Policy Council. This council educates the public on food issues and helps encourage good local food policy. There are currently around 200 communities with a Food Policy Council. Some councils are grassroots networks, while others serve as real advisors for local or state governments.
Encourage Healthy Eating and Lifestyles
The majority of American adults are overweight or obese. Because hospitals are one of the largest employers in communities, they can create wellness programs to improve the health of these employees. Hospital employees need to model healthy food and a healthy lifestyle for the rest of the community.
Begin a Healthy Foods Task Force in the Hospital
Hospitals should find people who are passionate about healthy food. They should promote and encourage healthier diets with patients, visitors, employees, and the community.
City or State-Wide Standards
Some cities, such as New York City, have instituted Food Standards. Hospitals that participate by adopting these standards ensure that employees, patients, and visitors have access to healthier food. When implementing all four standards in New York, hospitals comprehensively improve the nutritional content of beverages and food purchased in the cafeterias and vending machines.
There are excellent food sources that guarantee healthy hospital foods, such as morrisonhealthcare.com. Cafeterias use various techniques to make a healthy choice easier. Cafeterias offer more fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. They also decrease the number of high-calorie beverages and eliminate fried foods.
Beverage vending machines decrease the number of high-calorie beverages that are available. Marketing and advertising on vending machines encourage healthy messages. For food vending machines, standards require nutrition requirements for calories, saturated fat, sodium, sugar, and fiber. Packaging must provide nutritional information per package rather than per serving.
Finally, the standards give nutrition requirements for foods and meals served at lunch and dinner. Some of these standards include two fruit or vegetable servings at lunch and dinner and a sodium limit for bread and cereal.
Hospitals are supposed to be a place for people to become healthier. There are many programs, procedures, and standards that can help hospitals adopt a healthier way of nutrition. After all, you are what you eat.