Small Steps Lead to Big Change at Huggins Hospital

By Kurt Roessler

I worked in the restaurant world for many years prior to coming to the health care side of the business, operating mainly small bistros that sourced mostly local and sustainable foods. When the opportunity arose to start to do the same at the hospital, it was like a dream come true. 

It was at my first New Hampshire Health Care Without Harm meeting that I met Carol and Theresa from Miles Smith Farm. Their enthusiasm about their farm and the animals was refreshing as was their commitment to producing high-quality antibiotic free meats. I knew right away that their products would be a great addition for Huggins Hospital

About a month later we had a kickoff event at the hospital, serving antibiotic free meats in our Café and sampling other foods for our employee. We not only provided fresh food but also educated people about the growing antibiotic resistance problem and the benefits of local and sustainable products. It was a hit with our staff and they truly showed interest in learning about the issue. We were also featured in Food Management Magazine about our relationship with Miles Smith Farm.

With the ball now rolling, it was an easy decision to participate with more than 350 other hospitals in Food Day 2014 to send the message that we were committed to serving healthy antibiotic free meats. We sourced our entire daily menu from local New England farms including Miles Smith Farm, Archer Angus Farm, and Misty Knoll Farm. We provided information on posters and table tents to educate our staff and guests about Food Day and ended up serving over 150 local sustainable meals, not bad for a rural Critical Access Hospital!

Since Food Day last year, we serve antibiotic free meats in both our Café and on the patient Room Service menu to rave reviews. Our staff loves the fact that the burger they are eating came from just 29 miles away! Our goal for the future is to continue to provide high-quality local foods at Huggins Hospital and to work to bring in more local produce and fish. 

Although Huggins is a small hospital, we are in a unique position to have a big impact, in that Wolfeboro is a summer destination with visitors from all over the world. This allows us to extend our reach beyond the local community. Until the community at large and the healthcare community begin to understand the challenge of antibiotic resistance we cannot make strides toward correcting it. Food Day is an excellent way to engage in this education process by serving great food that was responsibly raised.

The opportunity to participate in a collective Food Day event enabled Huggins Hospital to raise awareness about the issue of antibiotic resistance and shift our procurement practices to support a healthier food system. We are a small hospital, but we are doing our part to have an impact on the way food is produced on a large scale. 

I have been in the food service business for 20 years both in restaurants and in health care. I currently am the Director of Food and Nutrition at Huggins Hospital in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire a critical access hospital founded in 1907.

This October, Health Care Without Harm will unite hundreds of health care facilities across the country to celebrate Food Day. Will you join us?

Kurt Roessler is Director of Food and Nutrition at Huggins Hospital.