Hos“pitiful” Food

From Lisa Barnes

Until recently I had only been in the hospital for two reasons – the birth of my son and the birth of my daughter. I remember the hospital food to be pretty decent. There were even two menus of food choices. One was a standard chicken, pasta, and sandwiches. The other menu was Asian with jook, noodles and stir fry. I switched up my entree choices, but once I tried the green tea ice cream, I was hooked. I had it with every meal. It was just the right of sweet and smoke and a lovely sage color.

The last night of the hospital stay in the maternity ward was called “Date Night”. There was a special menu including steak, greens and creme brulee for two. A table for two was set in the room with linens and candles. And our newborn was whisked away to the nursery. It really was a nice dinner and the hospital made a big effort to make you feel like you were on a date. I appreciated the uninterrupted meal even more once my husband and I were home with the new baby as we discovered what so many parents call the “witching hour”. This is the time you set your dinner plate on the table and your baby starts to wail (no matter what the hour).

When I found myself heading to the hospital (not maternity ward) this time I thought, “at least I’ll have my green tea ice cream”. I was wrong. Apparently the “healthy pregnant” people get the good food and the sick people get the left-overs. O.K. I wasn’t expecting local sustainable organics but I was shocked to see so many processed foods loaded with partially hydrogenated oils, artificial colorings and flavorings. My full liquid tray consisted of low fat milk (not organic), coffee (decaf, regular, who knows?), Swiss Miss egg custard (a huge list of offensive ingredients), cranberry juice “cocktail” and a bowl of very mushy and gelatinous oatmeal. (see my post for a yummy organic oatmeal option).

I’ve always advocated for children’s developing bodies and brains to get the healthiest organic foods. But shouldn’t hospitals be ground zero for providing and teaching about whole healthy foods? Whether it’s a new life or an older one we trust hospitals to make us better, not add to health problems. I know it’s expensive but so is healthcare. A $3,000 night in a hospital can’t include some thoughtfully prepared veggies, soups, and grains? A hotel couldn’t operate with such substandard food. I guess hospitals know the patients have no choice and it’s not an “amenity”. Food as a necessity means they can cut costs and take short-cuts.

I’m going to need to research. I know I’ve read about some hospitals making a better effort for nutrition and food service. If Alice Waters and Jamie Oliver are increasing nutrition awareness and culinary curriculum for children in schools, who’s doing the same for patients across the country in hospitals?
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See also The Top Ten Green Hospitals (National Geographic Green Guide)
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Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook: Easy, Organic Recipes to Nurture Your Baby and Toddler and lives in Sausalito, California.
Image Credit: National Geographic Green Guide
OrganicToBe.org | OrganicToGo.com
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