Stanford Medicine Newsletter Updates For the Local Community


Making the hospitals healthier

The expansion at Packard Children's will include an inviting cafeteria with healthy, organic options.


You won’t find deep-fried French fries, bacon cheeseburgers, or sugar-sweetened sodas in the cafeteria at Packard Children’s. Instead, hungry visitors and employees can choose whole-grain pasta, frozen yogurt and lots of fresh fruit and vegetables.

The change is part of a wide-scale initiative to make Packard Children’s one of the healthiest children’s hospitals in the country. The plan involves introducing healthy practices throughout the hospital, from encouraging the use of stairs to revamping the cafeteria menu.

“As a children’s hospital, we have the responsibility to model the healthiest environment possible for our patients, their families and the community,” said Karen Kemby, administrative director of strategy and business development. “We take that responsibility seriously, and we are leading the way in making children’s hospitals healthier places.”

Putting healthy options first

Packard Children’s was one of the first children’s hospitals in the country to eliminate sugar-sweetened drinks from its menu. (Each 12-ounce serving of a carbonated, sweetened soft drink contains the equivalent of 10 teaspoons of sugar.) Packard Children’s is also one of only 10 children’s hospital systems among 155 hospitals signing on with the nonpartisan, nonprofit Partnership for a Healthier America, which is working with the private sector and Honorary Chair First Lady Michelle Obama to end childhood obesity in the U.S.

Packard Children’s leadership efforts to promote a healthy environment permeate the entire hospital and are a driving force behind the expansion design. From strategies to promote stair use to inviting pathways throughout the gardens and easy-to-access bike racks, the design will encourage physical activity and positive lifestyle choices.

And lots of good eating.

“We do feel a responsibility to set a good example,” said Tom Robinson, MD, MPH, director of the Center for Healthy Weight.

The cafeteria now features healthful options like whole-grain breads and pasta, low-fat dairy and meat products, vegetarian selections and seasonal fruits and vegetables. All offerings are assessed in terms of fat, sugar and salt content as well as portion size.

“We tend to eat more than we need, especi- ally at stressful times,” said Stephen Roth, MD, MPH, chief of pediatric cardiology and medical director of the Children’s Heart Center. “It’s hard for families to be in the hospital when their children are ill, and we should do whatever we can to make our environment healthier for them.”

But healthy does not mean boring. Packard Children’s cafeteria rates an average of four out of five stars on Yelp, with kudos for its grilled cheese, turkey burgers and egg dishes.

Similar changes are under way at Stanford Hospital, where the Market Square Café began making major changes more than five years ago. It added more vegetarian selections, eliminated trans fats, reduced salt in food preparation and offered baked chips, rather than fried. Administrators also began increasing the percentage of fresh foods that are organic and purchased from local farmers who follow sustainable production practices.

Sugar cutbacks

Plastic utensils and trays have been replaced by compostable materials; recycling of food waste has also become a foundation of the café’s operations. The kitchens have been renovated and seating and food distribution areas upgraded to accommodate the changes.

Some of the more radical alterations made at Packard—such as removing deep fryers and replacing them with ovens—are planned for the adult hospital, said Florence Fong, administrative director of hospitality. But when SHC removed all the sugared sodas, its cafeteria customers complained so much that two brands were brought back, she said. In the meantime, the hospital is working to find new vendors to replace the cafeteria’s sugary desserts.

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