California hospitals work together to transform hospital food

Several San Francisco hospitals are working with Physicians for Social Responsibility, a nonprofit organization, to provide healthy, sustainable and savory food items.

SAN FRANCISCO—In reviews on Yelp, San Francisco's Moffitt Café averages four-and-a-half out of five stars. "Unbelievable variety, farm to table fresh food, wide produce selection, and great prices!" enthuses one customer. “I'm really happy with eating here, they have SO many options,” gushes another.

Not bad reviews ... especially for a hospital cafeteria. Moffitt Café, also known as “the Moffitteria," is the main dining hall of the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) Medical Center. Since undertaking a $6.5m café renovation in 2010, the nutrition and food services department at UCSF has been working to renovate the menu as well, attempting to integrate eating choices that are tasty, healthy and good for the environment.

Even though a short hospital stay is unlikely to change anyone's bad eating habits, it's "a big educational opportunity," says food-service project manager Jack Henderson. "We need to lead by example, because we are a teaching institution."

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Ideas and Innovation
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On every other Thursday of our four-week cycle menu, we allow K-8 students to pick the entree choices. The media center specialist for each of the participating schools sets up the list of entree items on a computer for voting, and the winning entrees are given to cafeteria managers two weeks before the upcoming month to put into production. Students really like this, as it promotes ownership of the menu.

Ideas and Innovation
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We highlight our North Carolina products on a large chalkboard in our dining halls, and also list any produce we bring in from our own agroecology farm. It helps tell our story—positive and local.

Ideas and Innovation
raised garden beds

We have raised garden beds that residents can reserve and use to grow their own plants. Whenever a resident brings me fresh produce from their own garden, I try and incorporate it into a dish. If I do end up using it, I will display the resident’s name and what the produce was next to the dish on the menu.

Ideas and Innovation
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Curriculum for the mobile teaching kitchen centers around a single kid-friendly recipe, using ingredients that can provide talking points for nutrition, sustainability and food origins. “The recipe is the lesson,” Saidel says. “Every ingredient is an opportunity to talk.”

Earlier this year, Saidel, Perkins and Harvey did a student demo featuring roasted chicken and white bean tacos with greens and citrus salsa. “We can say, ‘Why are we using chicken instead of beef? Why are there some beans in here?’ You can talk about plant proteins and the sustainability and health message around...

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