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Friday, March 11, 2011

Hospitals try cooking up better food for patients

Associated Press

POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. — Haute cuisine is to hospital food as coq au vin is to mystery meat, right?
Maybe once, but a number of hospitals are breaking the old Jell-O mold, blending feeling better with tasting better as they liven up patient menus with the likes of fresh blood oranges and shrimp scampi.

The movement toward tastier — and often more nutritious — hospital food even has reached the Culinary Institute of America, the well-known school for chefs north of New York City, which is offering a first-of-its-kind course on cooking for health care patients.

Students in the elective class are taking field trips to nearby Vassar Brothers Medical Center and to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan. The idea is to learn first-hand the nuances of tray lines, the challenges of serving people with severe dietary restrictions and what goes into creating higher-end hospital food.

"I want to break this image. I want to embarrass people when they say 'Hospital food? Their food is awful," said Lynne Eddy, who is teaching Food Service Management in Health Care. "Let me show you what good food is in a health care facility."

But this is about more than taste. Food that is both good and nutritious can help patients heal, as well as boost their morale, said Eddy.

It's natural that the same American consumers who scout out fresh basil at the grocer and hormone-free beef at Mexican restaurants want a similar experience when they're hospitalized. And customizing meals for patients and efforts to become more "gastronomically conscious" have helped the health care food service industry grow 4 percent last year, according market researcher Packaged Facts. Growth is expected to continue as executives in the competitive health care industry become more attuned to overall patient satisfaction. [Cont.]

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