Study shows Calif. children's hospitals largely fail to provide healthy items

Dec. 1—Only 7% of entrées served in California children’s hospitals can be classified as healthy, according to a study published in Academic Pediatrics.

The research was conducted by UCLA and the Rand Corp., a nonprofit that helps improve policy and decision-making through research and analysis. The authors studied 14 food venues in 12 of California’s major children’s hospitals. The researchers developed a modified version of the Nutrition Environment Measures Scale for Restaurants (NEMS-R) to assess the healthfulness of meals. The system took into account pricing, availability of vegetables, nutrition labeling, combo promotions and healthy beverages.

The average score was 19.1, with 37 being the most healthy. Of the total 359 entrées the hospitals served, only 7% were classified as healthy. Less than one-third of the locations posted nutrition information at the point of sale or had signs to promote healthy eating.

Other findings include:

  • All venues offered low-fat or skim milk and diet soda
  • 81% offered high-calorie, high-sugar items such as cookies or ice cream near the cash register
  • 25% sold whole-wheat bread
  • 50% of the hospitals did not provide any indication that they carried healthy entrées
  • 44% did not have low-calorie salad dressings

The study was conducted in July 2010, so the researchers did say that some hospitals have taken steps to offer healthier items.

“The steps some hospitals are already taking to improve nutrition and reduce junk food are encouraging,” Dr. Lenard Lesser, primary investigator and a physician in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars Program in the department of family medicine, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. “We plan to make this nutritional quality measurement tool available to hosptials around the country to help them assess and improve their food offerings.”

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation

When it comes to sustainability, sometimes the smallest kitchen changes can make the biggest difference. When Chris Henning, senior assistant director of dining services for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, switched from standard latex gloves to nitrile gloves, he also set up a recycling program. Once recycled, the gloves are turned into playground equipment, bike racks and park benches.

Henning says the nitrile gloves have been a good fit for his department, both in terms of durability and cost. “Participating in the campus buying program reduces the cost, as [our]...

Ideas and Innovation
elderly old hands

A family’s request for at-home meal support for a patient at Lee Memorial in Fort Myers, Fla., led System Director of Food & Nutrition Services Larry Altier to uncover a gap in care. He saw that only 1% of patients had been coded (diagnosed and labeled for billing purposes) as malnourished, while more than 60% of all Lee Memorial patients are over 65 years or older, a population that experiences the issue at a higher rate.

His discovery helped more rigorously identify malnutrition, but it also strengthened Lee Memorial’s community connection. The hospital launched a delivery...

Ideas and Innovation
nutrition facts label

Despite operators’ attempts to communicate nutrition information to guests via cards and labels on the food line, many guests still feel they have no clue what’s in their food. University of Illinois food economist Brenna Ellison shares a few guesses as to why consumers ignore these signs following a recent study on their placement in dining halls.

Q: Who is most likely to read the cards?

A: Students who were already exhibiting more healthy behaviors. So those were the students who track their intake using an app or a food diary. After the first week, we found the rates of people...

Managing Your Business
studient orientation

When an alma mater and an employer are one in the same, it can be a win-win for both the employee and the school. Here’s how two students’ experiences with campus dining—one positive and the other negative—led them on a path to their current jobs.

A Feast to Remember

NC State University’s main campus in Raleigh, N.C. was built on farmland given to the state by Richard Stanhope Pullen; every spring, students gather to celebrate those agricultural roots through Farm Feast, an outdoor celebration with food and music. Design major Christin King remembers her first Farm Feast vividly: “...

FSD Resources