Tag Archives: Hospital Food

Hospitals Serving Alligator? Or Crawfish Pie? Not Yet – But . . .


Here’s a story with disturbing implications. In Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city, there is a 167-bed medical facility call the Alaska Native Medical Center – ANMC, for short. It serves Alaska Native and American Indian people from all walks of life, from all parts of that huge, far-flung state. Many of this hospital’s ‘clients’, it was reported recently in a special feature in the Alaska Dispatch News, “bring appetites for subsistence foods.” Foods such as caribou stew, seal, moose, herring eggs and tundra greens – foods, in other words, far from the routine and highly-regulated diets served to patients in nearly every other American medical facility.

But a few years ago, under pressure from the likes of the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, the federal government passed what’s known as the 2013 Traditional Foods Nourishment Act. It paved the way for the regular provision of subsistence foods at public and nonprofit facilities.

For the traditionalist patients at the ANMC, this meant that, as well as being able to get the ‘comfort foods’ they are used to, the comfort such foods provide actually serve to aid in their recoveries, sometimes enabling them to leave hospital earlier than might otherwise – on ordinary hospital diets – be the case.

That’s good news for the patients, for hospitals offering ‘traditional’ as well as ‘traditional hospital’ food, and for insurers of affected patients. And that often includes the federal government, because, it’s fair to assume, a good share of those preferring ‘traditional’ foods are on Medicare or Medicaid.

But what if – if the 2013 Traditional Foods Nourishment Act allows for it – the likes of, say, Cajuns, descendants of early French settlers of Louisiana, started asking for some of their ‘traditional foods’, such as alligator, crawfish pie, jambalaya, fried okra, Andouille and/or Boudin sausages and so forth, in Baton Rouge and New Orleans hospitals? (These people were, to paraphrase Loretta Lynn, Cajun when Cajun wasn’t cool!)

Or descendents of stolen-from-Africa former slaves in the American south, many of who still have a taste for foods once eaten out of desperation and long-since mainstays in their ‘traditional’ diets? (Imagine a hospital’s patients’ menu offering pigs feet, pork belly, pigs ears, catfish fritters, and chicken gizzards, etc.!!)

And if that law does not allow those other ‘native groups’, such as they are, to demand their own ‘traditional’ foods in hospitals and other government-run facilities, are their likely to be legal challenges demanding, in effect, ‘equal rights’?

The simple answer to that is ‘no’, because unlike the Alaska natives and Native Americans in Alaska, the latter ‘groups’ don’t have anything like the lobbying power of the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium.

But one has to wonder how much clout it would take to successfully push that ‘equal rights’ button!


Irish Hospitals Get Rave Reviews on Food Service


A patient’s meal in an Irish hospital. (Photo: Alan Betson, The Irish Times)

While hospitals in the U.S. complain about how difficult it is to produce healthier diets for patients, at least two Irish hospitals have patients proclaiming their food to be “amazing”, “best I ever had”, “tasty” and “favorable”. And officials from the country’s Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) have noted, in observing presentations of meals such as boiled bacon, cabbage and vegetables being served up, that they were served “in an appetizing way,” according to a recent article in The Irish Times.

The HIQA officials told The Times that all the patients they interviewed spoke positively about their food – at Dublin’s Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital, the same city’s St Columcille Hospital, and at St. Luke’s Hospital in Kilkenny, where patients described their food as “excellent”, “beautiful” and told inspectors it “tasted well”.

The quality of hospital food has long been a bugbear of patients and successive ministers for health have promised to make improvements, the paper said.

HIQA was asked to carry out unannounced inspections of nutrition and hydration in public hospitals and has just published its first three reports – with surprising results.

At St Columcille’s Hospital in Loughlinstown, Dublin, all patients who spoke with inspectors were complimentary and satisfied with the taste of the food and drinks provided. They were also satisfied with the choice offered, though the HIQA report describes the variety of choice on the hospital menus as limited.

The main meal was fish or meat, but staff said scrambled eggs or shepherd’s pie were available as alternatives.

Patients in St Columcille’s were more muted in their enthusiasm, describing their food as “tasty” and providing a “good choice”. All were satisfied with the temperature of the food and said their hot meals were hot on arrival.

HIQA says the hospital must ensure quality improvement efforts are in place to meet patients’ nutritional and hydration needs. Patients must be screened for the risk of malnutrition and training in the area should be further improved, taking account of patients’ own experiences.

HIQA says all patients have a right to safe, nutritious food and the provision of meals should be individualized and flexible.

‘Patient Sandwiches’ Earn ‘Curious’ Tweet in UK

patient sandwich package

With the best of intentions, a hospital in Northwest England posted a notice recently that “patient sandwiches” had become available. Shortly thereafter, a clever Tweeter declared, “I always wondered what they did with the left over body parts after surgery.”

Hardly surprisingly, the tweet went viral.

The Bolton News, under a headline reading ‘hospital food goes from bad to worse with ‘Patient Sandwiches’ now being served’, said the notice announcing the new food offering “suggests that patients should have major concerns about what is in hospital food. After all, hospital grub already had a bad reputation before the tweet revealed that ‘Patient Sandwiches’ are now being served.”

The tongue in cheek tweet, written by a patient at a Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust hospital has had around 800 likes and been retweeted more than 380 times.

All else aside, this incident stresses the fact that what one says may, at times, be only somewhat as important as how they say it.

I’m reminded of the old advertising exec’s advice to the man opening a retail fish store. He’d prepared a sign saying “Fresh Fish Today.” The ad exec said it was too wordy. “Does anyone,” he asked, “want to buy fish that aren’t fresh? Eliminate that word. And,” the exec added, “isn’t it fair to say that a potential customer walking into your shop has every reason to expect the fish you are selling today are fresh? Eliminate the word ‘today’.” In the end, the sign read simply “Fish.”

Similarly, the hospital’s announcement of an addition to its menu for patients – not a new addition, as there’s no such thing as an ‘old’ addition – kind of overshot its mark when it said ‘patient sandwiches,’ as patients were, in fact, clearly the intended beneficiaries of this menu adjustment. Would it not, therefore, been enough to note that ‘sandwiches’ had been added to the menu? (Not the menu choices, as a menu is, by definition, a list of things one can choose amongst or between – depending whether its an English menu or an American one!)