At the PRH, healthy food tastes so good
On Dec. 18, PRH staff representatives and other VIPs gathered in the cafeteria to mark reaching the Silver level in the Healthy Foods in Champlain Hospitals program. Pictured here (from left) are Champlain Cardiovascular Disease Prevention Network (CCPN) program manager Laurie Dojeiji, auxiliary president Diana Gagne, gift shop and Mural Cafe staff member Pat Bennett, vice-president of patient services Sabina Mersmann, food services manager Judy Zilney and food services worker Gaetane Bucholtz.
The Pembroke Regional Hospital has been honoured for making the healthy choice the easy choice.
On Dec. 18, PRH staff representatives and other VIPs gathered in the cafeteria to mark reaching the Silver level in the Healthy Foods in Champlain Hospitals program.
Spearheaded by the Champlain Cardiovascular Disease Prevention Network (CCPN), the aim of the healthy foods program is to reduce rates of chronic illnesses such as heart disease, stroke and cancer by creating a place where the healthy choice is the easy choice.
Each level of the Healthy Food in Champlain Hospitals program comes with a set of progressively-phased nutrition standards developed by public health and hospital dietitians. With funding from the Champlain LHIN (Local Health Integration network) and implementation support from the CCPN, hospitals have worked diligently and creatively to adjust their retails food offerings since the program was launched three years ago.
To date, all 20 Champlain-area hospitals have voluntarily signed on to the program.
To promote and practice healthy eating within their institutions and achieve the Bronze, Silver and Gold levels, the hospitals have scrapped their deep fryers, calorie and sodium counts have been posted and reduced where possible, portion sizes have been decreased, more healthy choices of grains, fruits and vegetables have been offered on the menu and junk food and drinks have been eased out of the vending machines.
“The first step in the three-step progression was bronze level and we achieved that in 2015 not without some challenges for sure. Bronze was a huge step because people enjoy their chocolate bars and chips and some of those things, but we had to scrap those,” said Sabina Mersmann, vice-president of patient services – seniors and community care. “After being successful with that, our leadership committee decided we had to go to the next step and achieve silver. To do this, we started to provide more information at the point of purchase on nutritional criteria, we looked at decreasing sodium further, not having processed meats available or if they're available, decreasing snack sizes so that they could meet nutritional standards and reducing high caloric beverages.”
Mersmann expressed that it was a true team effort she thanked everyone for helping the hospital achieve the Silver designation.
“I have to thank the dietary department leading this initiative as they were absolutely fantastic. It's not easy to find some things out there that actually meet the nutritional standards, but they have done a tremendous job and I have to say the dietary department really stepped up to the challenge,” said Mersmann. “We now have a salad bar that people cant stop talking about it and we have a breakfast buffet in the morning. The dietary team really stepped up their game and came up with some great new food options.”
Laurie Dojeiji, program manager for the CCPN, presented the plaque to Mersmann and other PRH staff who were involved with improving the hospital’s nutritional program.
“We're trying to shift the culture around the value we place on food and our overall health and well-being. It's not just something to be thought of as a bit of an afterthought, but really food is foundational to our health and our well-being,” said Dojeiji.
Dojeiji expressed that the PRH’s commitment and positive attitude towards healthy eating will benefit everyone in the long run, as they serve as a leading example for other hospitals and community organizations to follow.
“I thank you very sincerely for the tremendous work you’re doing here and for the leadership that you’re providing. We don’t know any other hospitals that are collectively coming together and doing this work anywhere else, so you should feel very proud about leading this charge and I think we're really going to start seeing things move in the new year,” said Dojeiji.