The Big Idea: Hospital Food Fight

A competition between hospital raises money and encourages healthy dining.

Vicki Lipinski
Marketing & Fund Development Director
Stillwaters Cancer Resource Center, Milwaukee

Two years ago, as a fundraiser, we created Hospital Food Fight. We invite the different medical systems in the area to donate money in exchange for their participation in the event, and we also personally reach out to chefs at the hospitals to encourage their participation. There are various sponsorship levels, but a $2,500 minimum donation will allow them to compete. The goal here is not only to raise money for our organization, which provides support for cancer patients and their families, but also to demonstrate that hospital food isn’t “hospital” food anymore.

We set up certain criteria for the competition, such as it has to be food that could be served on a patient menu, it has to be cooked on site, it has to meet nutritional guidelines set down by the American Dietetic Association and it has to cost less than $5. Participating chefs submit their recipes ahead of time to be reviewed by a registered dietitian.

This year we had four hospitals that participated: Elmbrook Memorial Hospital, which is part of the Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare System; Aurora Healthcare’s Summit Medical Center; ProHealth Care’s Wausheka Memorial Hospital; and ProHealth Care’s Oconomowoc Memorial Hospital. They were competing for bragging rights; the winner gets a huge banner that reads “Best Hospital Food in Wisconsin” and a trophy. There were five judges, which included local chefs and a local radio personality.

In addition to the competition, which was held at the Milwaukee Marriott West, we invited local restaurants and catering companies to set up tasting stations. We also staged “savory seminars” for attendees. One seminar was a nutritionist talking about “eating the rainbow,” and another was a knife skills demonstration.

The winning hospital was Elmbrook, which was led by Chef Sean Durbin. His recipe was a Paella de Marisco with Sweet Potato Orzo. But all the chefs did a tremendous job demonstrating how good hospital food can be. We also were able to raise $33,000 at the event.

For the first two years we’ve invited only hospitals to compete. Next year we plan to invite assisted living facilities and retirement communities, because we know that there are chefs in those facilities who also are doing some amazing things. 

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
construction plans drawing tools calculator

When revamping an old cafeteria or building a new retail spot, the design process can feel like fitting together the pieces of a puzzle: What needs to fit in the space, and what’s the most efficient flow for staffers, cooks, diners and more?

Cathy Estes, administrative director of nutrition services at four northern Indiana hospitals that are part of the Franciscan Health network, faced the creation of a new in-house dining program at Franciscan’s Munster hospital. Amid all the big plans, design was one of the largest undertakings.

“I was looking at 5,000 square feet on a...

Ideas and Innovation
amazon prime delivery

About 90% of our students receive financial assistance and participate in our free and reduced-price meal program. But a number of students in our district study remotely due to circumstances such as chronic illness. In January, we hired a driver to deliver meals to students who aren’t able to step into our cafeteria each day.

Ideas and Innovation
wheaton emerson int salad bar

Restaurant design is all about catching a customer’s eye —and it’s sometimes particularly beneficial to be far-sighted. As Airbnb has proven with its San Francisco headquarters, where cafe spaces are inspired by cities like Cairo and Mumbai, elaborate design schemes that evoke far-flung geographic regions can be done to great effect. But operators are finding simpler ways to achieve that feel.

That’s been the experience of Kutztown University Dining Services in Pennsylvania. Kent Dahlquist, director of housing and dining services, says that when the university decided several years...

Managing Your Business
overtime payroll timesheet

Just eight days before Dec. 1, when operators would have to comply with the U.S. Department of Labor’s new overtime rules, a federal judge in Texas slapped an injunction on the regulation. The move indefinitely halted the rules that would have doubled the overtime threshold to $47,476, affecting nearly 4.2 million workers, according to the DOL. For some operators, the move was too little, too late. Now, they have to answer to employees who had been briefed on promised wage increases.

Kansas Memorial Union at the University of Kansas in Lawrence made changes ahead of the deadline...

FSD Resources