Craving a fresh sandwich or yummy smoothie? Try a hospital
CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. (AP) — You can’t run out to get a bite to eat when you’ve been admitted to the hospital, and when you’re visiting you want to stay close.
That means eating from the hospital menu, once reputed for the industrial delicacies of green beans from a No. 10 tin can, a square of Jell-O or vending-machine mystery meat.
Cafeterias are offering more choices. A quick snack is getting healthier.
Chambersburg Hospital and the Fulton County Medical Center in McConnellsburg both contract with outside companies to offer a variety of healthy foods for patients, staff and visitors. Meritus Medical Center in Hagerstown, Md., has done it all in-house.
“All fryers were removed from our operation,” said Sandra Baker, director of nutrition services at Meritus Medical Center. “A nutrient analysis program called ‘Go, Slow, Whoa’ was instituted to help educate everyone on food choices and if foods fall into a category of ‘eat often,’ ‘eat in moderation’ or ‘best to avoid.’ Our salad bar was enhanced with many healthy items, and higher sugar beverages and heavily caffeinated drinks were removed and replaced with an infused water station.”
The healthful trend extends to soup-and-sandwich shops within the hospitals. The Lunch Box Café opened in July at the FCMC. A Butcher Shoppe Micro Market will open in August in the main lobby of Chambersburg Hospital.
Hospitals across the nation have come under fire in recent years for allowing fast-food chains to serve high-fat, high-sodium food within their walls.
The Butcher Shoppe Micro Market and Lunch Box Café promise healthier fare, about as quick.
The micro market will be open seven days a week at Chambersburg Hospital. It will be stocked with salads, soups, sandwiches, entrees, sides, desserts, drinks and snacks. Hospital visitors also can pick up fruit trays and meat and cheese trays.
The Lincoln Way Café, the former Carousel Coffee Shop, is being renovated to house the micro market. The Hospital Auxiliary originally ran the eatery, and Morrison took it over in 2004. Proceeds from the operation benefitted the auxiliary, but it was breaking even, according to John Massimilla, chief operating officer of Chambersburg Hospital.
The Butcher Shoppe Micro Market will be open to the public during visiting hours.
“Staff members will have 24-hour access to the micro market, which is important to us,” Massimilla said. “Our staff are dedicated and work all hours to serve our community.”
Employees working overnight shifts recently told the hospital that they wanted to have food options available to them, he said.
“We take our staff’s feedback seriously and are happy to be bringing this option to them,” Massimilla said.
The hospital cafeteria, known as the King Street Café, remains open to the public and operates 12 hours a day, seven days a week.
The Lunch Box Café in McConnellsburg was designed for “healthy grab-and-go options,” Hershey said. The area features a turbo oven, pizza choices, healthy smoothies, fresh fruits, soups and sandwiches. A nearby vending machine also has meal options and sandwiches.
Cura Hospitality, a company with food service experience in long-term and acute care, operates the Lunch Box. FCMC hosts a small nursing home. Cura started running FCMC’s food service in December.
Morrison Healthcare, one of the largest U.S. health care food service companies, has managed the Chambersburg Hospital food service since the 1980s.
“Over the past decade, we are proud to say we have added much more variety to our food offerings for patients and staff and are committed to consistent efforts to provide health-conscious options,” Massimilla said. “A combination of our on-site dietitians, chefs and regional experts from Morrison Healthcare develop food offerings that attempt to meet regional preferences, but still offer variety for all needs.”
It’s common nowadays for hospitals to rely on an outside company to operate or manage food service for patients and staff, according to Massimilla.
“We are now able to offer seasonal plates as well as using the economies of scale to work through group purchasing to drive down costs,” said Misty Hershey, FCMC spokeswoman. “The food we are offering gives more options while still maintaining healthily therapeutic diets for patients and residents. We have a registered dietitian who works with their diets and ensures well-balanced, enjoyable meals are being served.”
Local hospital kitchens prepare hundreds, if not thousands, of meals a day. The challenge: Offer options and be cost effective.
“We understand the growing demand for a more diversified dining experience and have expanded beyond traditional, continental cuisine,” Baker said. “To do all we can to meet meal preferences for patients, we have special gluten-free, kosher, vegetarian and vegan options. We try and use local produce and products as often as possible, which allows for seasonal menus and specials.”
Baker relies on the Meritus 90-member nutrition services team. The hospital dining room, Robin’s Cove, is open to the public and is open 20 hours a day.
“The majority of our food is made from scratch using our own recipes,” she said “We even make our own mashed potatoes with milk, butter and sour cream. We often have guests who are not actually visiting patients in the hospital, but come back repeatedly to the campus to have a meal in our dining room.”
Meritus employees also manage the coffee kiosk near the hospital’s main lobby of the hospital. Proceeds benefit the medical center’s auxiliary.
Information from: Public Opinion, http://www.publicopiniononline.com