October 5, 2012

Committing to healthier food for patients, employees

Broad agreement focuses on hospital food.

OAKLAND, Calif. Kaiser Permanente, a champion of healthy eating, announced Saturday it has signed a commitment with the Partnership for a Healthier America to improve food offerings in its 37 hospitals.

Kaiser Permanente has a longstanding focus on promoting healthy eating, including pioneering efforts to bring healthy food to its hospital cafeterias, vending machines and patient food service. With this announcement, the organization is building on those efforts by offering more fruits and vegetables in cafeterias and on hospital meal trays, providing healthier beverages and meal options with fewer calories, less saturated fat and a balance of nutritious ingredients, and promoting a wide variety of healthy food and beverages to its workforce.

“As a health care organization, we have an obligation to provide the healthiest food possible in order to promote the total health of our members and our workforce,” said Bernard Tyson, Kaiser Permanente’s president and chief operating officer. “Problems like obesity and diabetes require us to redouble our efforts to make the healthy choice the easy, affordable and convenient choice. And health care organizations need to lead the way.”

Kaiser Permanente hospitals and facilities will demonstrate this new commitment over the next four years by:

  • Labeling all food and beverage items with calorie counts in cafeterias and on patient menus.
  • Limiting unhealthy beverages, including sugar-sweetened drinks, to a maximum of 20 percent of what is purchased in cafeterias and vending machines.
  • Removing all deep-fat fryers and deep-fried products from hospital cafeterias and patient menus.
  • Marketing and promoting only healthy food and beverage items in cafeterias.
  • Creating “wellness meals” for cafeteria and patient menus that meet defined nutritional profiles, and pricing those meals equal to or less than the cost of other meal options.
  • Meeting defined nutritional standards for 60 percent of entrees and side dishes.
  • Increasing fruit and vegetables to 10 percent of total food spend, or increasing it by 20 percent a year.

Kaiser Permanente, which was joined by 16 other hospital systems in signing the commitment, has already taken significant steps to promote healthy and sustainable food for its members, staff and communities. The organization sponsors 52 farmers markets around the country. In addition, about 190 tons of the fruits and vegetables served on patient menus across the organization (nearly 50 percent of all fresh produce that Kaiser Permanente purchases each year) are sustainably and/or locally produced.

This spring, Kaiser Permanente joined forces with HBO, the Institute of Medicine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health and the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation to launch The Weight of the Nation, a comprehensive public health campaign designed to accelerate efforts to prevent and eliminate obesity across the United States. And through Kaiser Permanente’s Community Health Initiatives for Healthy Eating and Active Living, the organization supports community-based partnerships and state and national efforts focusing on increasing access to healthy food. These efforts have included co-founding PHA along with other national funders and health organizations.

The commitment with PHA is the most recent in a series of healthy food pledges. Last year, Kaiser Permanente joined leading health care systems to formally launch the Healthier Hospitals Initiative, a partnership aimed at accelerating progress in health care environmental sustainability. Pursuing the HHI challenge to provide more sustainable and healthy food, the organization aims to increase the percentage of healthy beverage purchases as well as the percentage of local and/or sustainable food purchases, and to reduce the percentage of meat purchase.