Six Ways Hospitals Use Dining and Nutrition Programs for Community Outreach

Kerry Gold, chef at New Milford Hospital, stands in the hospital garden

Community outreach initiatives create brand awareness and establish the hospital as a leader in the community. Increasingly, hospital dining programs are recognized as a powerful tool in these efforts.

Community Needs Assessment

Beginning in 2012, The Affordable Care Act added requirements that a non-profit hospital must conduct a community health needs assessment at least once every three years and adopt an implementation strategy to meet the community needs identified through the assessment. For-profit hospitals and health networks also recognize the value of community outreach, goodwill and pro bono care to build their brand and presence in the community.

Here are six ways in which a hospital can Lead With Dining to support community outreach initiatives:

  • Healing Gardens In addition to providing fresh herbs and vegetables for the kitchen, healing gardens are a platform for community involvement and serve as a peaceful refuge for patients, employees and hospital visitors.
  • Farmers’ Markets A farmers market connects the community with local farmers and artisans and becomes a valuable teaching platform for educating the community about food and good nutrition.
  • Healthy Cooking Shows, Classes and Demonstrations If your Community Needs Assessment identified rising obesity rates, along with high levels of diet and nutrition-related disease and chronic conditions, these programs can be powerful tools with extensive reach.
  • Community Events Chef competitions, community tastings, or health and wellness fairs can draw attention to important food, diet and nutrition issues, from sustainable farming and fisheries to cooking with fresh ingredients and eliminating salt and added sugar from diets.
  • Community Dinners In some hospitals, “Senior Suppers” and other similar programs create connections with senior centers in the area to offer healthy meals at an affordable, discounted price. Include nutrition, cooking and health education programs to promote health and wellness.
  • Junior Chef Programs At the other end of the age spectrum, Junior Chef programs teach school-aged children about food, food preparation, kitchen safety and nutrition. The program can be tied to the Healing Garden program, or may involve farms from the community to teach kids about healthy food, and establish a connection between food and sustainable methods of food production.

This is just a short representation of the many ways Unidine has partnered with hospitals to support community outreach and population health initiatives. Here is short two minute video that shows some of our programs in action:



What are two of the biggest challenges in hospital foodservice transitions?

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