Hospital food takes on a healthy twist

Hospital food usually brings on thoughts of mystery meat and foul smelling meals, but in the last several years Medical Center Hospital has strived to change that offering a variety of options from healthy snacks to watching their selection being prepared in front of them.

MCH President and CEO Rick Napper said plans are to expand to offer outdoor seating and more seating inside.

Vice President of Operations Matt Collins said plans are to renovate the cafeteria in April and finish in about three weeks. He said the project would be completed in phases, is budgeted for $150,000 and was funded mainly by the MCH Auxiliary.

Mia Gibson, registered dietician nutritionist and clinical nutrition manager, said there is going to be a bar like Starbucks where people can sit on banquettes and new flooring.

As for the food, Gibson said calories for each item are displayed or on the package. People can pick up snacks like fruit, almond milk, lactose-free milk and soy milk. They also can make their own smoothies.

“We are a healthcare provider and we want our community to be healthy,” Vice President of Operations Matt Collins said. “We want our patients to be healthy and we want our employees to be healthy, so although we do offer options that are less healthy such as the bacon cheeseburgers, we highly encourage people to make healthy choices in the cafeteria.”

“There are plenty of things available. This exhibition station usually has low-calorie, higher protein fresh food. We have a salad bar offering over here and then if you pick carefully in our entrée All Spice Café, line you can find healthy choices such as steamed vegetables, all kinds of vegetarian options and other choices. But it all starts with the individual,” Collins said.

“You want to be healthy you’ve got to make healthy choices. We make it available. You like the healthy choices you pick them, but everybody has to indulge once in a while in that bacon cheese burger; everything in moderation,” he added.

Collins said they sometimes hear the comments about bad hospital food from patients.

“… Sometimes when people are in the hospital, they have to be put on diets that are geared toward improving their disease condition. Sometimes that means no salt, no fat, low-calorie. That might not taste the same as a specially prepared homemade meatloaf slice,” he said.

Gibson noted that there are real reasons for people to be on those special diets.

Director of Nutrition Ted Crowe said 750 meals a day are provided for patients and when the census is high, it’s more.

Executive Chef Mike Moody said between 1,100 and 1,300 meals a day are served.

Morrison is the hospital’s food service company and Crowe said the healthy options have been provided since they started with MCH.

“For the most part, our sales show that we’re getting more and more customers so they seem to be more satisfied with what our offerings are,” Crowe said.

For an example December 2018 compared to December 2017, Crowe said the cafeteria’s revenue was up a little more than $29,000 in sales.

The whole nutrition department has 67 employees and Moody said there are 30 in the cafeteria.

Moody said the earliest shift starts at 4:30 a.m. and the cafeteria has hours between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m.

“We have a very, very good staff. … We have different sections of the kitchen that will take care of different items. It can be a ballet back there trying to get everybody on the same page and out on time,” Moody said.

Crowe said Moody also is responsible for all the in-house catering. Gibson said some of it goes out of house, too.

Crowe said the cafeteria has an agreement to give food that can be used again to the Salvation Army.

Ruth Campbell covers education for the Odessa American. Reach her at 432-333-7765 or [email protected]

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