GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

September 5, 2012

The ins and outs of hospital food

Food For Thought
Heather Atwood

---- — Walk into the Addison Gilbert or Beverly Hospital kitchens in the morning and homemade stock, the base for all the soups served to patients and visitors, is simmering on the stove.

Along with stocks, the kitchens make their own salad dressings, light mayonnaise, and breads. The pizza alone — thin homemade dough with a draping of cheese and browned red onions — served in the Beverly Hospital cafeteria, is a sign that something seriously good is happening to hospital food.

“There’s a revolution going on in health-care food service around the country,” Alan Hawley, MBA, CDM, District Manager for Undine Corporation, the food service provider contracted by Northeast Health Systems, says. “Northeast Health System is at the forefront of this revolution in recognizing that the philosophy of ‘first do no harm’ extends to the food served to patients, families and caregivers.”

Composting, recycling, shopping locally, the anthem of well-meaning, globally-thinking food people, is now being sung by Addison Gilbert and Beverly Hospital chefs.

Beyond pizza, here are some of extremely visible changes you’ll see if you visit:

Herb gardens, growing French-country-restaurant-style outside at both hospitals, provide sage, parsley, thyme, two kinds of basil, oregano, and tarragon for their kitchens.

Dave Gauvin, the executive chef at Addison Gilbert, says he’s met many more employees now that he’s out in the garden cutting herbs when the morning shift arrives.

Bottled water has almost been eliminated in both hospitals. Instead, free flavored-water stations, beautiful coolers filled with infused tap water, are posted through the buildings and in the Emergency Rooms. Fresh oranges floated in the coolers the day I visited Beverly hospital, but other days cucumbers with mint, and watermelon infuse that day’s version of “Hydrate For Your Health.” A stack of paper cups stands beside it, a cold, fresh drink ready for anyone. (Unidine is working towards a styrofoam-free kitchen and cafeteria.)

Vending machines in the hospitals offer water, seltzer, and naturally flavored tea, but no sugary drinks, no soda, no soft drinks.

Conor Miller of Black Earth Haulers might be spotted hauling away the hospitals’ kitchen compost. Along with a single-stream recycling program, Unidine has hired this local composting firm to manage their compostable waste, 1,500 pounds of it a week between Addison Gilbert and Beverly Hospital.

Composting these large amounts of commercial scraps, not dumping it into an oxygen-starved landfill, serious reduces methane production, a major source of green house gas.

One of the more important changes Unidine has made is to reduce their meat consumption by twenty percent, a healthy change for the patients and visitors.

Even more importantly for the community, all fish and shellfish served at Addison Gilbert and Beverly Hospitals comes from the local seafood company, Intershell; that’s $8,000 a month worth of seafood orders going right to Gloucester.

Here’s where the revolution began: Health Care Without Harm according to their website, is “an international coalition of hospitals and health care systems, medical professionals, community groups, health-affected constituencies, labor unions, environmental and environmental health organizations and religious groups.”

In 2007 Unidine Corporation signed the “Healthy Food in Health Care Pledge,” a promise put forth by Health Care Without Harm to make the production of their hospital and corporate food healthy in a universal way: for patients, visitors, and the earth.

By signing this pledge, Healthcare Without Harm claims, food service providers are sending an important signal to the marketplace, that this 7 billion-dollar-a-year industry “is paying attention to local, nutritious, sustainable food, modeling healthy food practices for patients, staff, and visitors.”

“Due to its massive buying power, and its mission-driven interest in preventing disease, the health care sector can help shift the entire economy toward sustainable, safer products and practices.”

Here is a recipe for a seafood casserole served to Addison Gilbert patients.

Filled with Intershell seafood, it’s a luxurious dish almost free of butter and cream. The deepest flavors come from the redolent lobster stock the Addison Gilbert kitchen prepares daily with Intershell lobster bodies, those sweet, flavor-packed vessels — the remains of the Intershell shucked lobster production — and vegetables.

This recipe is a symbolic example of the virtues of keeping a small economic loop local: it’s a great use for a local byproduct; it represents a good relationship with a local industry, and makes a patient’s dinner both healthier and more delicious.

SEAFOOD CASSEROLE

1 1/2 cups water

1 lobster body

1 small carrot

1 stalk celery

1/2 small onion

1 bay leaf, whole

2/3 tsp minced garlic

1/2 tsp minced shallot

3 tablespoons flour

1 1/2 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons white wine

4 ounces scallops

4 ounces shrimp

4 ounces haddock

3 tablespoons bread crumbs

1 1/3 tablespoon chopped parsley

1/8 teaspoon fresh thyme, finely chopped lemon wedges

1. For Lobster Stock: In a large sauce pan, combine lobster shells, water, carrot, celery, onion & bay leaf. Bring to a boil slowly. Simmer for 30-45 minutes. Strain and cool the liquid. Reserve to make sauce

2. For Sauce: heat butter over medium heat add garlic and shallots, cook until tender do not brown. Stir in flour to prepare roux. Cook the roux until it has a pale yellow (blonde) color, about 5 min. Whisk in cold lobster stock & white wine, bring to a simmer. Simmer for 15-20 min.

3. To Prepare: Place 1 ounce of Shrimp, 1 ounce of Scallops, and 1 ounce of cubed haddock in the bottom of an individual casserole dish. Pour 5 tablespoons of lobster sauce over the seafood. Top with breadcrumbs seasoned with parsley. Sprinkle with fresh thyme

4. Bake at 350F to and internal 145F, and bread crumbs are toasted.

Garnish plate with lemon wedge.

Food for Thought runs weekly in the Times’ Taste of the Times section and is written by Heather Atwood, an author and mother from Rockport. Questions and comments can be sent to Heather at heatheraa@aol.com. Follow her blog at www.heatheratwood.com.