Hospitals serve up health – Part 2

Healthy beverages and farmers markets – two healthy hospital strategies.

Part one of this Michigan State University Extension series highlighted the process in which a diverse team can assess, implement and evaluate strategies to support healthy hospital food environments. Gift shops, cafeteria, vending, patient meals and catering are some of the various retail and non-retail outlets where food can be purchased in a hospital. Listing points where food is sold serves as an opportunity to begin the assessment process and can help determine where a healthy hospital team may consider focusing efforts. The following examples are considered promising approaches for making the healthy choices the easy choice.

Healthy beverage policies

Sugar sweetened beverages (SSBs), soda, sport, energy and fruit drinks for example, have become a large contributor to added calories among Americans. These additional calories from SSBs are strongly associated with weight gain and obesity which may contribute to chronic disease. The Institute of Medicine has recommended the adoption of policies and practices to reduce SSBs as a strategy for obesity prevention.

A number of hospitals have identified and implemented healthy beverage policies as a way to support patient, staff and visitor health. The Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio represents just one of many hospitals who have successfully implemented healthy beverage policies. As a part of a larger health initiative, Nationwide eliminated all SSBs from hospital facilities. Following implementation of the removal of beverages with no nutritional value, sales increased for healthier beverage alternatives and sales of soda declined more than 15 percent. An article detailing the hospitals implementation of the healthy beverages policy is slated to be published in the Journal of the American Public Health Association. Listings of additional health care facilities healthy beverage policies can be viewed in the hospital report.

On-site farmers markets

The number of farmers markets has seen steady growth over the last several years. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) over 8,000 markets were recorded in 2013 – an increase by 3.6 percent compared to 2012. As a way to increase access of healthy foods, provide nutrition education and support local agriculture, many hospitals host farmers markets on their campuses. Medical centers also find that offering regular farmers markets on site helps to fulfill their mission by supporting community wellness and healthy lifestyle behaviors.

Kaiser Permanente, the largest private, nonprofit healthcare system in the U.S. has been hosting farmers markets for over 10 years. In a 2010 survey published by the Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems and Community Development, shoppers surveyed at Kaiser Permanente markets ate more fruits and vegetables as results of shopping at the market, and over 70 percent noted eating a greater variety of produce.

Based on findings from a community needs assessment, the Penn State Hershey Medical Center opened a seasonal market on its campus in 2010 as a strategy to address chronic disease prevention. The market features over 25 local vendors and a permanent preventative health station that includes screenings, nutrition education and cooking demonstrations. To read about how health activities at the Hershey Medical Center market contributed to the National Committee for Quality Assurance medical home standards, read the Centers for Disease Control article.

For more information on farmers markets and to locate one in Michigan, visit the Michigan Farmers Market Association.

Implementation of healthy beverage policies and hosting farmers markets are two examples that support worksite wellness initiatives. MSU Extension health and nutrition programming provides educational programs available to worksites. More information can be found at

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