March 7, 2013

Some caviar with your cardiogram, sir?

Hospital food is going gourmet. Yum!

Hospital food is going gourmet. Yum!

I’ve recently become obsessed with where my food comes from. And I don’t think I’m alone. There are farmers’ markets and Whole Foods popping up all over the place. Whole Foods’ labels don’t just give you the “Best Before” date on your New York strip, they tell you where the cow lived, his name and what he generally liked to do on the weekends. Restaurants are at it, too. I went to my first all-raw vegan organic café the other day. It’s a trend that’s picking up speed. And people are voting at the cash register. I have a friend who likes to call Whole Foods “Whole Paycheck.” But like thousands, I’m willing to pay more for a better product, which is presumably healthier, too.

So, where does that leave hospital food? Well, it doesn’t have a great reputation, does it? It’s on a par with airplane food. Which is kind of crazy given “you are what you eat,” and if you’re sick, shouldn’t hospitals make more of an effort to help you get better with nutrient-rich foods? If you agree with documentaries like Food MattersFat, Sick and Nearly Dead or Forks Over Knives, you might want hospitals to ditch the delicious comfort food and opt for green leafy types instead.

In the last few years, hospitals all over the country have implemented some “wellness”-based efforts— color-coding their foods to indicate its calorie content and reducing sugars. But a hospital in Chicago is taking things to a whole new level. The competition for patients among Chicago-based hospitals is so high, they’re moving beyond surgery suites and exam rooms and offering great places to eat, too.

University of Chicago Medicine includes a Wolfgang Puck Express, a Starbucks and a Jamba Juice. The hospital also intends to open a small grocery store with organic foods, a deli counter, chef-prepared hot foods and a homemade gelato bar. The store will even have a street-level entrance to target the neighborhood, and not just hospital employees and visitors.

When competition for patients is tough, expanded dining options can’t hurt.

This article originally appeared in Ragan’s Health Care Communication News