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As part of a new emphasis on healthier and higher quality retail dining, LMHS rebranded its onsite dining operations under the Fresh Harvest label in 2011. In 2013, it signed on with the Healthier Hospitals initiative, which commits it to meeting specific benchmarks involving balanced menus, healthy beverages and local food usage.  

The goal, says Altier, is to have three-quarters of what is served in LMHS cafés compliant with American Heart Association guidelines on sodium, fat and calories. That means more emphasis on plant-based foods similar to a Mediterranean Diet approach. The move to meet the Healthy Hospitals goals, termed Journey to a Healthier You, was initiated at Cape Coral Hospital last June and subsequently expanded to the other locations.

The role of Culinary Solutions in all this is to develop suitable recipes and efficiently produce key menu components while the hospital sites encourage healthy choices through a combination of strategic positioning, pricing and education.

The healthy new choices are introduced while the traditional unhealthier ones are carefully pruned. “As long as you have good alternatives and enough variety, people accept it,” Altier notes.

 Sugar-laden bottled beverages have been removed from café cold cases, though they remain available in vending machines, where they are higher priced because they are not subsidized. The only place to get sweetened carbonated drinks in the cafés is the fountain, where portions are of a lower concentration and limited to 12-oz. cups.

One noted retail menu initiative that came from this effort is the Cosmos Grill, which offers a rotation of five weekly cuisines, each with its own choice of meal components that can be mixed and matched for optimum customization.

Each day, customers can also choose a specific combination that is advertised as the special of the day. These specials accumulate over the week that the cuisine is featured so that by the end of the week there are five, each progressively more familiar to regular customers.  

Other in-house-developed concepts include Veggie Fare (made-to-order salads, pitas, wraps and, most recently, juicers), Healthy Grill (featuring lean meats), Eggs-cetera (breakfast) and exhibition concepts featuring world cuisines and vegetarian formulations. Retail operations at all four acute care sites are also supplemented with branded Subway and ChocoLattes (a local coffeehouse concept) stations.

Senior Service

Two recent initiatives that have grown out of the Culinary Solutions operation at Lee are a senior nutrition program and the Fresh Harvest@Home therapeutic home meal replacement program. Both are designed to address community wellness issues while leveraging the production operation’s excess capability. Currently, Culinary Solutions is producing at only about 60% of its full capacity, Altier says.

The senior nutrition program prepares and home-delivers pre-portioned nutritionally balanced meals to seniors through a contract with nearby Collier County. The food is delivered by third-party carriers.

Meanwhile, Fresh Harvest@Home is currently in pilot phase. It is designed to target discharged patients who are at risk of malnutrition by supplying them with therapeutically appropriate meal packs. A pilot, currently underway, involves 250 patients getting meals for 90 days, with a 90-day followup to assess impact on readmission rates.