DANVILLE — Pennsylvania Acting Secretary of Health Dr. Denise Johnson lauded the efforts of 50 Pa. hospitals who have joined a national effort to promote and encourage healthy eating.
Since 2019, 50 hospitals in 26 Pennsylvania counties have joined the Good Food, Healthy Hospitals program that involves facilities providing nutritious and local food and beverages to patients, employees and visitors.
“Our mission is to promote healthy nutrition… and we are glad to partner with you,” Johnson told a gathering of hospital officials and Philadelphia Department of Health employees at the Pine Barn Inn in Danville Thursday morning.
At the meeting, several participating hospital officials discussed ways they are making healthy food options available.
Dr. Kathy Selvaggi, chief community health officer at Butler Health Systems, said the program has brought more locally-grown and healthy food into the hospitals’ cafeteria and vending machines as well as helped to address food insecurity in the western Pennsylvania area it serves.
Through the program, she said, the health system developed a Food Institute. All patients are asked questions to determine their situation, including access to fruits and vegetables and use of food pantries, and depending on responses, are referred to the Food Institute for an education on healthy recipes and food preparation.
Since the program began in April 2021, Selvaggi said, the hospitals have been able to track an increase in people preparing more nutritious meals and eating better.
“We are trying to spread the word of healthy eating,” she said.
Nine hospitals in the Geisinger Health System are participating in the initiative and use the motto, “Make the healthy choice the easy choice.”
Geisinger Health System food service program manager Emily Newhard said they’ve added more healthy choices in vending machines at the facilities and are now offering plant-based food options, including a local vegan burger.
“We’ll have a new patient menu in 2023,” she said.
Good Food, Healthy Hospitals is used in 16 states across the country and is supported by a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Johnson said.
“Hospital do more than treat illnesses and injuries — they partner with patients and their communities for better health,” said Andy Carter, president and CEO of the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania.