An Intervention to Increase Availability of Healthy Foods and Beverages in New York City Hospitals: The Healthy Hospital Food Initiative, 2010–2014
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An Intervention to Increase Availability of Healthy Foods and Beverages in New York City Hospitals: The Healthy Hospital Food Initiative, 2010–2014

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    Hospitals serve millions of meals and snacks each year; however, hospital food is often unhealthy. Hospitals are ideal settings for modeling healthy eating, but few programs have sought to improve nutrition in all venues where food is served.

    Community Context

    The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene created the Healthy Hospital Food Initiative (HHFI) to improve the healthfulness of food served in hospitals. The HHFI built on prior work implementing mandatory nutrition standards for patient meals and vending in public hospitals. Public hospitals joined the HHFI by voluntarily adopting standards for cafeterias and cafés. Private hospitals joined by implementing nutrition standards for patient meals, food and beverage vending machines, and cafeterias and cafés.


    Hospitals were recruited from 2010 through 2014 and provided technical assistance from health department staff. Implementation in each of the 4 areas was monitored through on-site assessments and menu review. Twenty-eight hospital cafeterias and cafés were evaluated at baseline and at the end of the HHFI to assess changes.


    Sixteen public hospitals and 24 private hospitals joined the HHFI. Most (n = 18) private hospitals implemented standards in at least 2 areas. In cafeterias, most hospitals introduced a healthy value meal (n = 19), removed unhealthy items from the entrance and checkout (n = 18), increased whole grains to at least half of all grains served (n = 17), and reduced calories in pastries and desserts (n = 15).


    Most New York City hospitals joined the HHFI and voluntarily adopted rigorous nutrition standards. Partnerships between hospitals and local government are feasible and can lead to significant improvements in hospital food environments.

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