The Physicians Committee--a nonprofit with more than 12,000 doctor members--applauds New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo for signing into law on Dec. 6 a landmark bill that guarantees hospital patients a healthful plant-based option at every meal.
Bill S1471A/A4072, introduced by Senator Brad Hoylman and Assembly Member Richard Gottfried, requires hospitals in New York to make available upon request plant-based meals and snacks containing no animal products or by-products that are nutritionally equivalent to other menu items. The bill also requires hospitals to list the plant-based options on all written materials and menus.
"By making plant-based meals the law in hospitals, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has put New York on the forefront of a growing movement to ensure that hospitals provide patients healthy, plant-based meals to fight heart disease, diabetes, and obesity," said Susan Levin, M.S., R.D., director of nutrition education for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.
Nearly 1.7 million New Yorkers have diabetes and heart disease accounts for 40 percent of all deaths in New York State, according to the New York State Department of Health. Research shows that a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, grains, and beans can help fight heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, and cancer.
Earlier this year, the D.C. Council introduced the Healthy Hospitals Amendment Act of 2019, a bill that would require hospitals in Washington, D.C., to improve the nutritional quality of their menus by eliminating processed meat such as bacon and hot dogs and making plant-based options available. Last year, California passed similar legislation, which the Physicians Committee co-sponsored.
In June 2017, the American Medical Association passed a Healthy Food Options in Hospitals resolution that calls on U.S. hospitals to improve the health of patients, staff, and visitors by providing plant-based meals. The American College of Cardiology made the same recommendation in Planting a Seed: Heart-Healthy Food Recommendations for Hospitals.
St. Joseph Health System in Sonoma County, Calif., reports, "Vegetarian entrées cost about 50 percent less than meat entrées." The hospital projects saving $5,000 a year by serving more meat-free meals.
The Physicians Committee's Healthy Hospital Food web page provides quantity plant-based recipes, tips for implementing plant-based meals, and case studies of hospitals championing healthy food.