Cheesy scrambled eggs, meatloaf, chicken parmesan and pie. It wouldn't be an unusual tally of meals consumed by a patient admitted to a hospital for heart disease or stroke. It's clearly not health food, yet it's the type of sustenance offered at hospitals every day nationwide.
Fortunately, there's a movement underway that's putting the healthy back into health care by ensuring hospitals provide patients with nutritious plant-based food options. In fact, just last month New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed landmark legislation that guarantees hospital patients in New York are offered a healthy plant-based option at every meal.
In 2020, a new coalition will help hospitals not just in New York but nationwide provide patients plant-based food options that combat rather than contribute to cancer, diabetes, obesity and heart disease.
The Humane Society of the United States, Oldways, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, Health Care Without Harm and Meatless Monday are five nonprofits providing support, resources and hands-on trainings to hospital culinary teams to help them provide more plant-based meals.
Here's how these groups will be advancing health at hospitals as we begin new year, which is the ideal time for individuals – and organizations – to commit to wellness-enhancing approaches.
The Humane Society of the United States
Since 2015 the Humane Society of the United States has delivered plant-based training to nearly 11,000 culinary staff at large-scale food service operations, including working with over 95 health care facilities to increase availability of plant-based offerings in cafeterias, on patient menus or both. In 2020, the HSUS is ramping up these efforts with a new training created specifically for chefs, dietitians and physicians within healthcare. The enhancement builds on the success the HSUS has seen already in the sector.
For example, Baptist Health South Florida sees over 1 million patients annually. As a result of working with HSUS, after the first year of its launch there was a 93% increase in plant-based sales with an average of 40% of customers choosing the plant-based options daily. Prior to working with the HSUS, 5% of meals at New Jersey's Valley Hospital were plant-based; now it's 35%. The hospital has committed to work with HSUS to increase its plant-based offerings to become 50% of their menu within the next two years. Virginia Mason Memorial Hospital in Washington didn't offer any plant-based entrees before working with the HSUS; now, approximately 50% of the café and patient menu items are plant-based.
The goal is to work with health care systems all over the country and help them commit to 50% plant based daily offerings by 2025. To connect with a media spokesperson and national campaign leader, contact Maria Katrien Heslin, [email protected]
Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine
In 2018 California enacted legislation similar to the new law in New York, and earlier last year, the Washington D.C. Council introduced the Healthy Hospitals Amendment Act of 2019. This bill would require hospitals in 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.
These three watershed laws have been bolstered by support from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a national nonprofit health organization with 12,000 member physicians and an emphasis on prevention. PCRM also helps hospitals with implementation of new plant-based menu items. The organization's registered dietitians, nurses and medical doctors deliver lunch-and-learns and employee wellness programs in hospitals to provide the education on the evidence behind plant-based nutrition. They also offer chef training and a hospital tool kit with marketing materials and recipes to ease the transition. You can find more information at MakeHospitalFoodHealthy.org or by emailing [email protected]
In 2020 PCRM will help New York hospitals implement their plant-based offerings, and the organization will be working to further the legislation introduced in Washington, DC.
Nutrition nonprofit Oldways has developed the Oldways Plant Forward Plates Healthcare Toolkit, a comprehensive roadmap that hospitals can follow to add high quality, cost effective, 100% plant-based meals to their food service programs. Plant Forward Plates features over 40 recipes scaled up to 100 servings, therapeutic menu plans, HACCP instructions, nutritional analysis and food-ordering guides to match the scaled recipes.
The Plant Forward Plates Toolkit fee is being waived to encourage hospitals to make 2020 the year they add healthy and delicious plant-based meals to their menus. To download a free copy, visit https://oldwayspt.org/pfp. Health Care Without Harm
Health Care Without Harm's Healthy Food in Health Care Program has been working with health care facilities for over 10 years to reduce overall meat consumption and cut food-related greenhouse gas emissions while serving more plant-forward meals. The organization's most recent survey found that 69% of hospitals in their network are working to reduce meat in patient and retail settings.
In 2018 Health Care Without Harm partnered with the World Resources Institute to bring the Cool Food Pledge to health care. The pledge aims to reduce signatories' greenhouse gas emissions from food purchasing by 25% by 2030. Health care signatories receive technical assistance from Health Care Without Harm in developing their plans to reduce their climate impact by implementing plant-forward menus. To date, 30 health care facilities have signed on to the Cool Food Pledge, representing over 35 million meals annually.
This year Health Care Without Harm will continue working with its network of over 1,200 U.S. hospitals to implement plant-forward menus, and assisting them in tracking, goal setting and promotion of their progress.
Launched in 2003 by The Monday Campaigns in association with the Center for a Livable Future at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Meatless Monday promotes a simple message: one day a week, cut out meat for personal health and the health of the planet. The campaign provides free evidence-based resources and creative materials to hospitals and other organizations to encourage people to start with a small change that can influence larger shifts in their diet and can improve their health and help reduce environmental impact. Meatless Monday is promoted at New York-Presbyterian in New York City and at NYC Health+Hospitals, the largest public health care system in the U.S. as well as in other healthcare systems around the country. The concept has been adopted in more than 40 countries and translated to 22 languages. In 2020, it is expanding its efforts to engage even more organizations in reducing meat consumption.
Free resources are available for all hospitals to make an impact in 2020 by embracing plant-based menus for patient health and satisfaction and for environmental sustainability.