Does Shands serve patients the least-healthy food?
Group says yes, while hospital demands a recount
Published: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 at 2:16 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 at 2:16 p.m.
A national organization last week called out Shands at the University of Florida for having fast-food chains inside the hospital and serving unhealthy food to pediatric patients, but Shands says it had revamped its menu before the accusations were made and maintains a healthy food environment for patients and the public.
The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a nonprofit focused on preventive medicine through nutrition, named five hospitals in the country with unhealthy food environments, and Shands topped the list. The group cited the existence of Wendy's, Umberto's Pizza and Chick-fil-A on the Sun Terrace; it also said pediatric patient menus had fattening foods such as meatloaf and gravy and french fries.
The group also noted that Shands is listed as one of the best children's hospitals for cardiology and heart surgery by U.S. News & World Report, putting an even greater onus on the hospital to have an overall healthy environment.
"The point is that there is a bigger picture here: While you may have a great heart or surgical center, if you're not looking at the food that you're giving to the patients, you're missing the bigger picture about the role food plays in health and well-being, which is arguably the primary role in health and well-being," said Susan Levin, director of nutrition education at PCRM.
But Dr. Scott Rivkees, the chair of pediatrics at Shands, said PCRM "didn't speak to people here who have an intimate knowledge of what our food program is." Instead, it culled most of its patient information from menus that predated Shands' new "Great Living Menus" for all patients, replete with healthy options such as Kashi Go Lean cereals and egg-white omelettes, salads, and oven-baked instead of fried chicken, Rivkees said.
"For them to characterize our patient menus as packed with high-cholesterol and high-fat foods is nothing further from the truth. We have one of the healthiest food programs in the U.S.," Rivkees said, adding that some children with certain conditions such as cystic fibrosis require a diet that is much higher in calories than their peers, and those children are offered more highly caloric menu options.
As for the existence of fast-food chains, Rivkees said they are only part of a wider spectrum of restaurants that include Sushi, Hovan Mediterranean Grill and Salad Creations. In addition, some venues such as Subway are certified by the American Heart Association, Rivkees added.
"You can think of Shands at UF as a small city. We have 10,000 employees here. We have a post office. We have our own ZIP code. It's important to recognize that the venues that feed faculty and employees are very varied," he said.
Although children and patients generally eat what the hospital provides, families might find it comforting to go to familiar restaurants and bring their sick child something from them, Rivkees said.
"Kids with cancer and mouth sores may feel good eating shakes," he said.
But Levin said it's a mistake to equate fast food with comfort food.
"Once (pediatric patients) leave, they might even think, ‘I had chicken fingers and fries,' so that must be a healing food," she said.
Other hospitals that need to improve their food offerings, according to PCRM, include The Children's Hospital Los Angeles (also on U.S. News & World Report's honor roll), the St. Louis Children's Hospital, Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis and the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital in Nashville.
"These are top hospitals in the U.S. similar to our institution, which provide great care for the patients," Rivkees said.
PCRM did note that St. Louis Children's Hospital has a vegetable bar and a salad bar; and Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital includes healthy vegetarian options on its patient menus.
"Hospitals are starting to step it up," Levin said. "I know some hospitals are offering more a la carte items on patients' menus, almost like you're ordering room service."
She noted that some hospitals in Maryland purchase locally grown fruits and vegetables, and Inova Fairfax Hospital in Virginia has several vegan options and a cafeteria that serves sweet potato fries and whole grain rolls along with soy milk and naked juice. It also has a separate "healthy heart cafe" in its cardio unit.
As well, many hospitals throughout the nation also are starting to replace McDonald's with Au Bon Pain, Levin added. Au Bon Pain is a cafe/bakery chain with 290 locations worldwide.
Contact Kristine Crane at 338-3119, or email@example.com.