Elsewhere in this issue you’ll find our profile of Food Management’s “Healthcare Innovator of the Year,” Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center.
There is far more to say about the forward-thinking strategies of its Nutrition Services department than there is room for in a single article. But even the highlights give a clear idea of the complexity that faces foodservice providers in a large acute care facility today.
All of us at Food Management congratulate OSUWMC on its demonstrated ability to manage large, multi-year projects like the ones described in the article, and we hope our readers will take a moment to do the same.
One of the thoughts that struck me as I wrote it relates to the multi-faceted message the department communicates with its new patient room service menu. The one patients receive lists both weekly menu rotation items and a wide variety of alternative options available every day (two daily lunch and dinner specials are also offered).
Even a cursory glance at the menu—it is sprinkled throughout with over 200 “healthy heart” icons—immediately tells you that helping patients make better meal choices is a top priority.
Yes—there are a few exceptions (applewood smoked bacon and omelets are lone holdouts on the breakfast menu, for example) but the message that an abundance of healthful choices are always available is clear. (you can view a pdf of the menu at http://bit.ly/10ROlXV, courtesy of OSUWMC’s menu designer/partner, Woodstock Dietary Systems).
The menu is still a work in progress, according to Nutrition Services Director Julie Jones, and will evolve as the new room service program expands. But from a patient’s point of view, one obvious message is that a menu can have lots of variety and choices and still be dominated by healthful, nutritious options.
Once discharged, there’s no reason many of these options couldn’t be duplicated by an outpatient at home, or used as a guide when making restaurant meal choices.
From a hospital administrator’s point of view, the menu sends a timely message about the effort Wexner is making to align patient meal options with its larger efforts to improve patient outcomes.
And the message to hospital visitors, patient families and others in the public is that hospital food can be nutritious and desirable at the same time.
As I looked over Wexner’s menu, it also occurred to me that wellness and healthful dining initiatives that are being implemented today in schools, colleges, hospitals and B&I locations are likely doing more to change dining habits over the long term than we sometimes assume.
It is the nature of such initiatives that we tend to focus on their immediate and shorter term impact. But if you step back, they are also laying the groundwork for the future: educating the parents of today and tomorrow about how we can change our own and our children’s health destinies through better meal choices.
Even if the immediate impact on children, college students and employees seems slow going at first, I for one am optimistic that these lessons will sink in. So will the practical examples of better nutrition as demonstrated in real meals (as opposed to textbook theory).
As is often the case, habits take longer to change than understandings (e.g., Do as I say, not as I do!). But it is hard to believe those who are dining in well-run public school meal programs today, and who will be eating in college dining halls and B&I cafés tomorrow, won’t learn to make better choices than those of us who grew up in the 1970s, 80s and 90s.
The education and examples onsite menus set for them will be remembered. And looking back 30 years from now, I believe the onsite community will have much to be proud of and to take credit for in raising a new generation that has both the nutritional knowledge and the dining habits that will give them more healthful lives and families.