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Columbia, MD – Howard County General Hospital: A Member of Johns Hopkins Medicine (HCGH) continually looks for ways to provide an even safer and healthier environment for its patients, visitors and employees. In line with that commitment, HCGH Food and Nutrition Services is working diligently to offer food products that are not only more nutritious, but also good for the local and global environment.
Eva Stevens, manager of HCGH Food and Nutrition, recently signed the Healthy Food in Health Care Pledge sponsored by the nonprofit Health Care Without Harm. The pledge outlines steps the health care industry can take to improve the well being of patients, communities and the environment. It emphasizes that healthy food should not be defined only by nutritional quality, but also by a food system that is environmentally sustainable and economically just.
HCGH understands that having a robust supply of locally-grown food is important for a number of reasons. Typically, the food bought at supermarkets is shipped long distances and spends days, even weeks, off the farm before reaching the table. Buying locally means saving money, lowering truck emissions and eating fresh-picked food that is tastier and more nutritious.
Stevens also noted that winter freezes in Florida and other major food producing areas often destroy crops, resulting in poor quality, high-priced fruits and vegetables such as oranges, tomatoes and strawberries. Supporting our local farmers decreases our dependence on distant food producers.
While she would like to buy directly from local farmers, Stevens explained, “There are many safety and insurance considerations when purchasing food for the Hospital. We need to buy from distributors who are insured and who guarantee inspection to protect the health of our patients and employees.” She does, however, purchase from distributors such as Keeney Produce, a purveyor that buys from local produce farmers, and hopes to find more sources of locally raised meat products. Stevens encourages her vendors to carry more and more local foods.
The hospital menu also has become healthier in recent years. Since 2006, Production Supervisor Denard Jones has purchased only zero trans fat foods for the Hospital and now is buying only hormone- and antibiotic-free milk. The Food and Nutrition Department also has reduced the size of some meat portions and Stevens encourages diners to make up the difference with extra vegetables and fruit and choose whole-grain breads – healthier choices. A vegetarian option is offered every day in the cafeteria and this option will soon be provided on the daily patient menu.
HCGH also encourages employees, patients and the local community to support local farmers’ markets and join community supported agriculture (CSA) efforts to help protect the environment and improve the quality of the food we eat.
Howard County General Hospital: A Member of Johns Hopkins Medicine since 1998 is a227-bed, not-for-profit, health care provider located in Columbia, Maryland. Serving the community since 1973, the hospital, with a professional staff of over 800 physicians and allied health professionals, representing more than 70 specialties and subspecialties, and a workforce of more than 1,700, has grown into a comprehensive, acute-care medical center that offers a full range of services, from neonatal care and oncology to outpatient treatment and critical care.