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Washington Hospital's Food and Nutrition Services Department Nourishes Patients and Our Community

February 11, 2014

"Our department is about nourishment," said Kimberlee Alvari, a registered dietitian and director of the Food and Nutrition Services Department at Washington Hospital. "For us, patients come firstÑthat is our vision and the ethic of our entire Hospital. But, we also work to live up to the needs of all our stakeholders, including the community."

Alvari and her staff are focused on giving patients, as well as the employees and visitors who frequent the Hospital's Cafe, the healthiest and the most excellent culinary experience possible. At the same time, they are keenly aware of the bigger picture.

"We think about all aspects of the food system, from the "field to the fork" and this affects our actions as part of this Hospital and also as members of society and our community," added Alvari. "In the past year, we've made good progress in more closely aligning our work of nutrition with the need to be socially responsible. We want our actions to have a positive impact on the community, the economy and the environment."

Socially responsible food purchasing

Last fall, Washington Hospital increased the amount of seasonal, organic and locally grown produce it serves patients by joining five other Bay Area hospitals in the Regional Produce Purchasing Project, also called the Farm Fresh Health Care project. This collaborative purchasing effort is possible because of new computer software in Food and Nutrition Services that can make real-time menu changes. The system enables the hospitals to purchase more fruits and vegetables from local family farms. As a result, Washington Hospital has further improved the quality of food it serves, while supporting sustainable stewardship of the land and investing in local commerce.

The Produce Purchasing Project is organized by San Francisco Bay Area Physicians for Social Responsibility (SFPSR) in partnership with Community Alliance with Family Partners. SFPSR coordinates Healthy Food in Health Care (HFHC), a nationwide program of Health Care Without Harm, which works to develop a sustainable food system through the purchasing power and expertise of the health care sector.

Alvari is a member of HFHC's San Francisco Bay Area Hospital Team. This group of 16 leaders from various local hospitals shares knowledge on food service operations and works to combine their purchasing power to create a healthier food system.

Last October, she was a guest lecturer at the Health Care Without Harm Conference at the University of California San Francisco. Her presentation, Managing the Triple Bottom Line . . . Challenges and Considerations in the Procurement Process, focused on managing the food supply chain for hospitals.

In the Hospital's Cafe

Washington Hospital maintains its own urban garden for much of the year, providing additional fresh, organic foods for the Hospital's Cafe serving employees and visitors.

The Cafe has also been the site for nutrition education and information programs organized by the Food and Nutrition Department. While eating in the Cafe, Hospital employees and visitors learned from a wide variety of presentations, such as "Apple Month," "Buy Fresh, Buy Local," "Think Pink Healthy Menu Month" and many more.

Nourishing the community

As part of its effort to reach out to the community, the Food and Nutrition Services Department supported the Alameda County Food Bank, which provides food to 240 nonprofit agencies in Alameda County. Last year the Department donated approximately 500 pounds of food and volunteer hours to help bag 23,000 pounds of oranges at the Bank.

The Department also provided education and information to help residents learn about better nutrition and apply their knowledge in their everyday lives. Free lectures and classes over the past year have addressed the topics of Healing Soups, Eating Clean, Yard to Table, Get Your Child's Plate in Shape, and more.

Department staff members shared nutrition information at many support groups and medical classes addressing a variety of health care services and conditions, including Cardiac Rehabilitation, Pulmonary Rehabilitation, lymphedema, arthritis, stroke, breast cancer, prenatal care and wound care.

Throughout the year, Department staff members actively promoted the cause of better nutrition at fairs and events, such as Newark Memorial High School's Career Day, the Fremont Art and Wine Festival, Concert in the Park, and the Hospital's Children's Health Fair, Diabetes Health Fair, Think Pink event and Earth Day.

They also served as a resource for stories on a variety of nutrition-related topics that appeared in the Tri-City Voice. Subjects have included how sugary drinks contribute to the risk for Type 2 diabetes, following a gluten-free diet, healthy grilling and nutrition tips during the holidays.

Washington Hospital also supports the community by serving as a community training site for Registered Dietitian candidates at San Jose State University, Oakwood University and San Bernardino State University.

Healthy Eating Made Easier

Enjoying tasty, nourishing meals is an important element for all patients on the road to recovery. At Washington Hospital, the Food and Nutrition Services Department now uses an advanced new software program with real-time patient menus. The program makes it possible for patients to receive a restaurant-style menu at the bedside.

Meal orders are taken by food service representatives who visit patients or call them close to meal time. This allows patients to select the meal they want closer to the time they are served, rather than a day ahead, which is the usual practice at most hospitals.

The automated system also contributes to higher quality, fresher food. because the Hospital can instantaneously change patient menus to take advantage of local, seasonal produce.

Learn more.

For more information about Washington Hospital, go to www.whhs.com. To learn more about the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility, visit www.sfbaypsr.org.