In yet another health initiative, Mayor Michael Bloomberg is seeking to cut all sugary and fatty foods from public and private hospitals in New York City.
Under the Healthy Hospital Food Initiative, a set of New York City Food Standards implemented at the end of September, hospitals food is regulated in four sections: cafeterias, food vending machines, beverage vending machines and patient meals. These standards are consistent with U.S. Department of Agriculture Dietary Guidelines for a healthy diet and uses progressive approaches to make healthy foods more available.
All 15 of New York City Health and Hospital Corporations’ public medical facilities have adopted healthy food changes, so far while 16 private hospitals have committed to participating in the program.
Department of Health commissioner Thomas Farley supports Bloomberg’s initiative and the hospitals involved.
“Hospitals should set the standard for promoting healthy behaviors and with this initiative in New York City, they are doing just that,” Farley said in a press release. “The Healthy Hospital Food Initiative is the most comprehensive approach to improving food options inside our hospitals.”
There is a consensus among healthy professionals that these changes will cause a positive ripple effect within hospital communities, and Arlene Spark, professor of nutrition and public health at Hunter College, agrees.
“This is a wonderful initiative, not so much because it benefits in-patients, but rather because it’s a boon for hospital employees and staff, hospital visitors and those who regularly attend [out-patient department] facilities,” Spark said.
NYU Langone Medical Center has been among the first of private hospitals opting to participate. On Sept. 26, Langone announced its achievement of silver status in the Department of Health’s initiative for implementing two of the four food standards. The first set of standards was implemented in 2010 to improve the nutritional content of patient meals. The second set of standards, implemented this fall, was to improve the nutritional content of meals in their cafeterias.
“NYU Langone Medical Center recognizes the integral role healthy eating plays in both wellness and the healing process,” said Betty Perez, senior director of Food and Nutrition Services at Langone. “Often people would like the benefits of a healthy diet but find it difficult to sacrifice their level of satisfaction. This is where innovative culinary talents in a healthcare organization can be influential, allowing us to introduce our patients and visitors to healthy and satisfying foods that nourish both the body and soul.”
Bloomberg said he is hopeful other private hospitals will follow suit.
“We’re doing what we should do and you’ll see, I think, most of the private hospitals go along with it,” Bloomberg said.
Critics of Bloomberg’s initiatives said his administration is running a nanny state with its bans on smoking and limitations on sugar intake. Even students have questioned the mayor’s tactics.
But Gallatin junior Pauline Woo stated the initiative is one in a series of exemplary actions by the city government.
“I think it’s excellent Bloomberg is finally succeeding to make a different, and it will actually pay off,” Woo said.
Bennett Watanabe is a contributing writer. Email him at [email protected]
In the previous version of this article, WSN incorrectly attributed responses from NYU Langone Medical Center to DJ Sabalusky, public relations specialist at Langone. In fact, Betty Perez, senior director of Food and Nutrition Services at Langone, provided them. WSN regrets the error.