The Big Idea 2014: Partnering for health


Susan Bristol, R.D.
Aramark Healthcare Director of Food & Nutrition Services/Dietetic Internships
University of Arizona Health Network, Tucson, Ariz. 

When we combined the food and nutrition services departments back in December 2013 and I assumed leadership over foodservices, I was able to use my experience as an R.D. to begin offering more healthy and specialty food options to our retail customers. We had just hired a new vice president of patient experience, Julie Kennedy Oehlert, and we wanted to improve the healthy quality of our meals. We attended a cooking class that Dr. Andrew Weil was doing in the community, and we thought he could help. He is a well-known name in the community and has an outstanding reputation. I had actually met him a few years ago and partnered with him as a dietetic intern. So we approached him and asked if he would work on our patient and retail menus.

The starting point for us was an event that some of our dietetic interns did in our café. On March 5, the food & nutrition services department at the University Campus—the network also has a smaller, South Campus hospital—showcased several of Dr. Weil’s recipes. We served 10 dishes: Hot and Sour Salmon, Vegetarian Spaghetti Squash Casserole, Hot and Sour Greens, Roasted Sweet Potatoes, Asian Cauliflower, Wild Rice and Mushrooms, Chicken-Farro (Kale) Salad, Vegetarian Chili, Serrano Chili and Cilantro Cornbread and Peach–Blueberry Cobbler. Café sales increased by 15% above average, with total daily sales of $19,500 and 4,700 customers. Customer feedback was excellent, with 100% of those completing a survey indicating they would purchase the items again.

On April 8, Dr. Weil met with the food and nutrition staff to taste-test selected recipes prepared for the patient room service menu. We tried to bring a little of everything to the menu. Recipes selected for the patient menu included Dr. Weil’s famous Tuscan Kale Salad, Curried Cauliflower Soup, Roasted Winter Squash and Apple Soup topped with a Cilantro Walnut Pesto, Pasta with Tuscan Kale Pesto, Turkey Bolognese and the Peach–Blueberry Cobbler. Aramark Executive Chef Steve Martin worked with his staff to translate the recipes to meet the large volumes produced for the room service patient meals. 

We do 900 to 1,000 room service meals a day, so we use sous vide because we have found that the sous vide method produces the best quality food and most accurate portion control for our patient meals. So we selected Dr. Weil’s recipes based on which ones would work the best with sous vide.

It’s exciting to work with Dr. Weil because he really has a holistic philosophy toward food. He tries to marry food, nutrition, gardening and well-being. It also helps that we have the support of the administration. Our CEO sees the importance of doing this for staff, visitors and patients.

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