Of all places, you would expect a hospital to serve nothing but healthy food choices. But imagine the challenge of having to prepare an array of breakfast, lunch, and dinner items for thousands of people — patients, visitors, employees — every single day.

In October 2012, MaineHealth joined the Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA) and made a commitment to provide healthier food choices.

PHA is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that was created “in conjunction with — but independent from — First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! effort.” Its focus is on working with the private sector to solve “the childhood obesity crisis.”

Ten MaineHealth member or affiliated hospitals rolled up their chef sleeves and took a hard look at changes they could make in their kitchens and cafeterias.

  • LincolnHealth
  • Maine Medical Center
  •  Mid Coast-Parkview Health
  •  Pen Bay Medical Center
  •  Spring Harbor Hospital
  •  Stephens Memorial Hospital
  •  St. Mary’s Health System
  •  Southern Maine Health Care, Biddeford
  •  Southern Maine Health Care, Sanford
  •  Waldo County General Hospital

Here’s what they have accomplished so far:

  • Offer daily wellness meals that meet nutrition standards and are priced less than or equal to other available meal options
  • Increase healthier options in the checkout area by displaying only health-promoting food options within five feet of cash register stations
  • Label menu items with calories per serving
  • Remove all fryers and most deep-fat-fried products
  • Ensure that fruits and vegetables account for at least 10 percent of total food purchased by the hospital
  • Increase the percentage of better-for-you beverages purchased by the hospital

They also developed a special logo to point out better-for-you food options and make it easier for people to make healthier choices. Two years after launching PHA’s Hospital Healthier Food Initiative, “employee Health Risk Assessment data showed consumption of five or more fruit/vegetable servings increased by 17.6 percentage points, rising from 35.1 percent in 2012 to 52.7 percent in 2014.”

Because it was able to make “significant changes to its food and nutrition standards across 10 hospitals” The Partnership for a Healthier America honored MaineHealth with the Healthier Future Award.

MaineHealth chefs receiving PHAaward

Source: MaineHealth

PHA President and CEO Lawrence Soler, traveled to Maine to present the award. “People connect with a hospital during their most intimate and extraordinary circumstances – from joyous occasions like childbirth to episodes of severe sickness,” he said. “Organizations like MaineHealth who offer more choices for their patients and staff, know that eating well is important to feel well. They are leaders in their communities and in their industries by providing more, healthier options for all they serve.”

“We are honored to receive this important award,” said MaineHealth President William Caron, Jr. “Our food service teams across the MaineHealth system have exhibited tremendous leadership, innovation, and teamwork in creating and promoting healthy food choices for our patients, families, and employees. The successful results they’ve achieved reflect their ongoing dedication to our vision of working together so our communities are the healthiest in America.”

Nearly 10 percent of all hospitals in the U.S. have joined PHA’s Hospital Healthier Food Initiative. MaineHealth was one of the first hospital systems in the country to make the commitment.

Congrats to all the MaineHealth hospitals. And thank you for sharing some of your recipes.

MaineHealth recipe for balsamic-peach-glazed-pork-recipe

MaineHealth recipe for almond cookies