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Hospital Food Goes Green: Room Service, Please

The “greening” of hospital fare requires not just fresh, nutritious ingredients, it involves using new recipes and investing in meal preparation and presentation.

“More and more hospitals are hiring executive chefs,” says Kris Schroeder, nutrition director at Seattle’s Swedish Medical Center. Executive chefs create restaurant-quality recipes and have the training to make food taste good, even for patients on restrictive diets. Moreover, an increasing number of hospitals are preparing meals to order whenever patients want them, room service-style, complete with patterned china, napkin rings and placemats.

Eleven years ago, Schroeder started the nation’s first large room service program at the Swedish Medical Center’s 700-bed First Hill campus.  “Hands down, in any facilities that have implemented room service, if they have done it successfully, patient satisfaction goes up.” she says. “You’re giving someone choice, and it’s a patient-centered approach.” The program has cut down on wasted food and on cost, but labor costs are up. Some of the increase, Schroeder says, is offset by meals purchased by family members, who are extremely pleased to be able to eat with patients in their rooms.

Chris Trivlis, director of food service at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, took a different step. Food is served to patients from a new food cart, equipped with heating elements on top, plus heated and refrigerated cabinets stocked with various meal options, including omelets and pancakes with fresh fruit for breakfast, and meat, chicken or fish for lunch and dinner—all plated just outside the patient’s room.

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