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Special report: Hospital food goes gourmet

by Nancy Ryerson, Staff Writer | January 18, 2013
From the January 2013 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

Sample dish: Quinoa bowl with black beans, kale or collard greens and homemade pico de gallo.
Food service highlights: Though patients at the hospital have a meat option, eating animals is eschewed in the rest of the hospital. The LivingWell Bistro doesn’t even offer animal products. “It’s the first plant-based café on a health care facility campus in the U.S. that we’re aware of,” says Ashleigh Pedersen, food service manager. Less meat means a smaller environmental footprint, and the team works to get its hands on local ingredients whenever possible. Currently, the cafeteria uses offerings from 19 local vendors. Cutting out meat also means cutting costs. “If you look at tofu, beans or quinoa as a protein source, steak or chicken is going to have a lot higher cost per ounce,” says Pederson. And whether they’re cooking up vegan tacos or pizza, the hospital’s award-winning chefs work to make sure visitors know eating vegetarian means more than just crunching on salads. Plus, guests ordering food to go don’t need to feel guilty about the packaging since the hospital always provides compostable containers.

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The kitchen at Fletcher Allen
Health Care uses vegetables from
the hospital’s roof-top farm.

Fletcher Allen Health Care
Location: Burlington, Vt.
Sustainable since: 2006, when the hospital became one of the first to sign the Healthy Food in Health Care pledge.
Accolades and awards: Winner of the HFHC Public Policy Award in 2011.
Sample dish: Artichoke ravioli served topped with a house-smoked roasted pulled pork with house-roasted tomatoes.
Food service highlights: Fletcher Allen first became interested in sustainability when obesity and its connection to health care costs began making headlines. “People were also starting to talk about climate change and how it relates to food, so it was kind of a convergence on a lot of food-related health issues that we thought we could make an impact on,” says director of nutrition services Diane Imrie. Today, Imrie says each person on her management team has taken on a sustainable mission, whether it’s reducing antibiotics in the food supply, cutting back on waste or providing sustainable protein sources. And of course, the cooks focus on flavor. Even though their cooking methods are quite healthy – no fryers allowed – patients and customers alike praise the taste. “They are really, really surprised,” says Imrie. “And that’s the part I wish we could work on across the country because they shouldn’t be surprised, it should all be fabulous.”

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