Food is Care Program
Bringing quality meals to patients
NWH is proud of our Executive Chef Patricia Sobol
for winning the Northwell Health Chef Challenge for the second year in a row.
The Value Proposition:
When hospital patients are comparing their meals to airline food—lukewarm, low quality, and unhealthy—hospital staff know they have a serious problem. At NWH we understand that food is health care. To improve the patient-centered experience at Northern Westchester Hospital, the staff instituted a program called Food Is Care. The goal? Keep food simple, healthy and give patients choice, control and nutrition-packed meals that taste great.
Food is Care Program at NWH is a
National 2014 Planetree Best Practice Award Winner for Food and Nutrition
The medical reasons for hospitals to serve better food are compelling. According to research published in Food Journal, when patients get enjoyable, warm, healthy meals that they choose, they feel more comfortable and in control of their hospital stay. Hospital mealtime is also an excellent time to learn how tasty and satisfying nutritious food can be.
HANYS (Healthcare Association of New York State) features NWH's Food is Care Program in their NYS Triple Aim campaign – which highlights the ways member hospitals and health systems are transforming healthcare.
NWH instituted the Food Is Care program in 2012. The first step was to determine what patients were looking for in terms of food and nutrition: personal choice of what and when to eat, variety of food choices similar to what would be eaten at home or in a restaurant, all meals cooked to order, and real-time nutrition education when placing the order. Infrastructure updates were made, including retraining of the cooks by The Culinary Institute of America. A direct partnership between nursing and food service was established. Considerations were made to foster a social environment encouraging patients to enjoy a meal with their loved ones.
An Interdisciplinary Approach:
The Food Is Care team includes administrators, physicians, registered nurses, patient care associates, registered dietitians, order takers, food runners and members of the Patient and Family Advisory Council. Together, they developed a system in which patients are able to order food from menus in their rooms. When they call, a nutrition associate guides and educates patients about suitable and nutritious dining choices. Patients have multiple “anytime selections” that they can order whenever they are ready to eat. Orders and food preferences are catalogued in patients’ electronic medical record, and any unsuitable items are flagged so that the nutrition associate can guide patients to healthier choices. Registered dieticians are also available to help educate and explain nutritional needs to patients.
Overall, patient satisfaction with food quality improved, moving from the bottom 25th quartile to the 90th percentile and has remained in the top 10 percent of hospitals nationwide.
Other accomplishments include the complete elimination of production batch cooking. All meals are now cooked to order and delivered within 45 minutes. The hospital has established an onsite herb and perennial garden. Administration has established a new method of food purchasing that has dramatically increased the use of locally grown, fresh produce; (90% of fruits and vegetables are sourced from local farmers) the hospital has also signed a “Healthcare Without Harm Food Pledge” that serves as a blueprint for using sustainable strategies in hospital food service.
“This is hospital food?” one patient wrote in a food survey.
“Having a partnership between nursing and food service truly makes food and nutrition an integral part of the patient’s treatment and education. This program is a dream come true,” —Lauraine Szekely, Chief Nursing Officer.
“I loved being able to select meals that I could get in a restaurant and pick the time I want to eat. And having conversations with educated staff about healthy nutrition has really helped me as a newly diagnosed diabetic.” —NWH Patient
This Food Studies Journal spotlights practical ways that patient-centered providers across the health care continuum are revisiting every aspect of their dining programs to maximize choice, personalization, opportunities for education and socialization, and health promotion while incorporating gardens, farmers’ markets and community education into their offerings.
ABC Eyewitness News with Dr. Sapna Parikh
White Paper: The Critical Role of Food in Patient-Centered Health Care; Food Studies Interdisciplinary Journal
NWH 2015 Champions of the NSLIJ System, Healthy Chef Challenge
To learn about bringing our Food is Care program to your facility, contact Maria Hale, Vice President, Patient-Centered Support Services, 914.666.1951 or firstname.lastname@example.org.