Sarah Morales: “We’re asking employees to lead the way.”
Beginning August 7, the cafeterias at Poudre Valley Hospital and Medical Center of the Rockies will be among the nation’s first to serve up a taste of what hospitals preach to patients: eat right to stay healthy.
PVH’s Café 1024 and MCR’s Café 2500 will encourage that message through a pilot program that lowers the prices of healthy food while raising the cost of less-than-healthy choices. The Harmony Café is not included in the pilot program.
“The goal is to make healthy food the easy choice for our patients, visitors and staff members,” explains Sarah Morales, wellness dietitian for LiveWell, the employee wellness program. She worked closely with an employee taskforce to develop the Healthy U Picks program, which will rely on pricing strategy to encourage healthier eating.
“The feedback that we’ve heard is that cost is the barrier when it comes to eating healthier,” says Robyn Smith Brown, director of MCR’s Hospitality Services, which includes Café 2500. “Healthy U Picks is designed to take down that barrier.”
“The emphasis is on making the healthy choice the easy choice,” echoes Liz Hollowell, PVH’s Hospitality Services director. PVH’s Café 1024 is part of Hospitality Services.
During the pilot program, which ends in the fall, only a few menu items will be included in the new pricing strategy. Depending on the pilot’s outcome, the pricing strategy may be deployed widely throughout the menus in the future.
Example of prices
Pricing has yet to be established for most items in the pilot program. Here’s one that has: The cost of a veggie burger will be lowered 45 cents, to $2.25, while a hamburger will increase in price 45 cents, to $3.
Marked for lower prices in the pilot program will be, among others, black bean burgers, grilled chicken sandwiches and breakfast items such as veggie omelets made with Egg Beaters rather than eggs. A low-calorie Healthy U pizza will make the menu, too.
Menu items in the pilot program will be listed with a logo for Healthy U, the new name used in northern Colorado to identify UCHealth programs and initiatives designed to improve the health of community members and employees.
The taskforce conducted considerable research in developing Healthy U Picks. The taskforce included representatives from medical nutrition therapy, Center for Diabetes, LiveWell, Heart Center of the Rockies, food service, and other areas related to nutrition and wellness.
The taskforce created Healthy U Picks nutrition criteria that, for instance, stipulates that a main dish -- a single entrée such as a casserole, pasta dish or sandwich – must contain 400 calories or less, with less than 10 percent of the calories from saturated fat. Information on calories, fat and nutrition benchmarks for Healthy U Picks menu items will be posted in the cafeterias.
Health-care reform plays a role
Several hospitals across the U.S. have successfully implemented similar programs, but the number is expected to grow as national health-care reform places more emphasis on community health.
“Hospitals have a responsibility to be role models,” emphasizes Hollowell. “We haven’t always done that before as organizations. But an important part of health-care reform is to be proactive.”
Smith Brown says she’s excited that UCHealth is open to exploring different ways to encourage a healthier food environment. “I feel like we’ve found a good formula in Healthy U Picks for healthy choice and healthy food. People will feel not only that they are eating healthy but they are also getting good-tasting food.”
Morales offers a thought that reflects the traditional staff commitment to far-reaching programs in the health-care industry and community: “We’re asking employees to lead the way.”