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Pembroke Regional Hospital signs on to healthy food program

(Post media file photo)

(Post media file photo)

The Pembroke Regional Hospital (PRH) has voluntarily signed on as one of fifteen participating hospitals in the Healthy Foods in Champlain Hospitals program and is well on its way to completing the program's first level of requirements and achieving a Bronze designation.

The Healthy Foods initiative was developed to create a supportive, healthy food environment for patients, visitors, staff, physicians and volunteers by providing better food options in hospital retail settings. This includes the cafeteria, vending machines, the Sunshine Gift Shop and the Mural Café.

"As a healthcare facility it's important that we lead the way in providing healthy nutrition options where food is sold as well as the information required for people to be able to make informed decisions when it comes to the food that they are eating," said Sabine Mersmann, vice-president of patient services - seniors and community care at PRH.

Key changes required to meet the Bronze designation include increasing the availability of vegetables, fruits and whole grain bread products; providing calorie and sodium information for soups and entrees; removing deep fryers/deep fried foods; reducing the variety of chocolate, chips, coated granola bars, candy, pretzels, danishes, croissants, pies, cinnamon buns and donuts; lowering the level of sodium in soups; and decreasing portion sizes of high-calorie beverages.

Mersmann who is also a member of the Healthy Foods Leadership Task Force which is providing oversight for the program in the Champlain Region said the Bronze level is fairly easy to accomplish and while there are still a few standards to be met, the Pembroke Regional Hospital hopes to achieve the Bronze level designation well in advance of it's December target date.

She noted a dietician is assisting in the process and that the hospital is working closely with the PRH Auxiliary which operates the Sunshine Gift Shop and the Mural Café in order to meet the requirements. The hospital and others are also working with food vendors and suppliers in order to find healthier options in terms of soups, entrees and snacks.

Environment services manager Marilyn Watson said that while the deep fryer was removed from the hospital's kitchen three years ago, some of the more recent changes that have been made in order to meet the Bronze level standards have included a reduction in high-calorie drink sizes like chocolate milk and pop, shifting to whole wheat bread products and ensuring everything is either baked or steamed.

Staff are currently working on developing an ingredient list binder for all items which will be available at the point of sale, and a digital screen will soon provide all menu details including calorie and sodium information.

Noting that silver and gold benchmarks will follow the bronze designation, Mersmann said that Pembroke Regional Hospital may only be at the beginning of its journey to healthier food choices, but the steps being take so far are certainly steps in the right direction.

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