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TCH promoting good health through good food

A number of hospitals across the state and nation, including Tri-County Hospital in Wadena, have begun to transform their food purchasing and food serving practices, in recognition of the power of these policies to promote the health of individuals (patients/visitors/staff), local economies and ecosystems.

As places of healing, hospitals have a visible incentive to provide food that is healthy for people and for the environment in which we live. Food can be supplied in a variety of ways, which have consequences in terms of nutrition, disease risk, public health, environmental health, and social and economic well-being. With attention to the way food is grown, to the ways it is packaged, shipped, prepared and discarded, hospitals' food service departments can play important roles in promoting healthy lifestyles and choices, and preventing chronic disease.

For example, cooking from scratch, instead of using canned and pre-processed foods, eliminates salt and fat from prepared food. Abundant access to fresh fruits and vegetables helps to provide nutrition and vitamins, and contributes to a diet which helps to prevent heart disease, cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity. Avoidance of many fats, especially trans fats and saturated fats, is extremely important for many health reasons. Purchasing of local, fresh foods allows for nutritious growing and harvesting, minimizes distance-transportation use of fossil fuels and supports local economies. Using organically produced foods minimizes agricultural use of antibiotics and pesticides, each of which has well-documented effects on human health. Waste reduction measures -- such as use of non-plastic ware and dishes, bulk and fresh purchasing, and donation or composting of unconsumed foods -- save costs, energy and promote environmental health.

Through a statewide survey, the Minnesota Academy of Family Physicians has learned that Tri-County Hospital has taken some of these steps toward healthy food service practices.

David Hutchinson, M.D.

MAFP immediate past president