MATTOON, Ill.—Last month for Heart Month at 200-bed Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center, the food and nutrition department hosted a tasting fair, during which employees tested 27 items provided by eight vendors. According to Cathy Babbs, director of food and nutrition services, the goals for the fair were to add new food options to the Basement Bistro, the hospital’s café, and to raise money for the American Heart Association.
For the tasting fair, employees were invited to visit the hospital’s education center where they could sample the different food items. For a suggested donation of $4, the staff could sample the items and fill out a ballot. The event raised $750 for the American Heart Association’s Heart Walk. Babbs and her staff will then take the results and add the most popular items to the Basement Bistro. More than 190 ballots were returned and the favorite items included cheesecake, teriyaki chicken and a corn muffin. In all, 18 of the 27 items will be added to the café’s menu in the following months.
This isn’t the first time the department has done a tasting fair. In 2002 for the hospital’s 25th anniversary, they held a Quarter Century Celebration. The employees, once again, tasted items supplied by vendors. Instead of asking for a suggested donation, employees gave a quarter for each sample they took. The event raised $1,000.
Babbs said after doing the Quarter Century Celebration, employees began asking the department to host a similar event. “We kept hearing on our surveys that this was something they really liked and wanted to do again,” she said.
“We are always looking for ways to add variety in our café and the tasting fair is a good way to do that,” Babbs said. She added that the event is also a good way to judge how well employees will accept healthier food items.
For the past three years, the department has pushed healthier items through its Fresh Start program. All items sold in the café have nutritional information posted and those items that meet the department’s healthy criteria are marked with an apple logo. Those items that are classified as Fresh Start have a built-in 25% discount. For example, skim milk is 40 cents while 2% milk is 60 cents.
“The administration actually funds this discount, so I get credit for the things that I am selling,” Babbs said. “The administration wants to support healthy eating in the bistro. We have seen an increase in the Fresh Start items, especially in the little things. People will get baked chips rather than the regular chips or the skim milk instead of the 2%.”