Local Hospitals Move Toward Life-Supporting Foods

By Clare Leschin-Hoar
Published November 11, 2013
Voice of San Diego

Hopefully, you haven’t been hospitalized lately. But if you have, you may have noticed the food you were served while regaining your strength is a lot better than it used to be. That’s no accident.

In California, 25 percent of the state’s hospitals are participating in the California Healthy Food in Health Care Program, including San Diego Medical Center, Rady Children’s Hospital San Diego, Scripps Mercy Hospital San Diego, UC San Diego Hillcrest Hospital, Palomar Health and others.

According to a new report released last week by Health Care Without Harm and the San Francisco Bay Area Physicians for Social Responsibility, hospitals and medical centers are making strides in providing patients and staff healthier meals. Of the 127 hospitals participating in the program, 78 percent have a healthy beverage program.  That means full-calorie sodas and sugar-heavy energy drinks are being replaced with diet drinks or products like Vitamin Water Zero. The same percentage of hospitals have programs in place to reduce the amount of meat served in their cafeterias, and to source the meat they do purchase from sustainable producers.

There’s a big emphasis on local sourcing as well. A whopping 91 percent purchase local and/or sustainable foods and beverages — that means they’re buying items like cage-free eggs and meat raised without antibiotics. More than half (62 percent) the facilities purchase organic food; and a small percentage (3.5 percent) even source products that contain no genetically engineered ingredients.

“Five to 10 years ago, there wasn’t much going on in this area at all,” said Barbara Hamilton, sustainability manager at Palomar Health, which includes Pomerado Hospital in Poway, Palomar Health and Palomar Medical Center in Escondido. “But the last five years there’s been a pretty large resurgence of getting back to basics and understanding processed food isn’t the best food for our health.”

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