La Puente: Hospital Dining Goes Green

Gina Akers
The Paw Print

As part of La Puente’s Hunger Education Week, a series of articles has been written and published in the Valley Courier highlighting different organizations and individuals who are doing work to combat hunger and diet-related issues.  This is one of the articles in the series, highlighting SLV Regional Medical Center’s work.  It is our mission at La Puente to network with various organizations, businesses, and nonprofits in order to have a web of services and knowledge that we can provide to those we serve.  For information on the remaining Hunger Education Week events, call 587-3499.

“What we’re doing is part of a global trend,” said Mary Sue Morgan, SLV Regional Medical Center’s Kitchen Supervisor.

In October 2009, using their funds for local obesity prevention, LiveWell Alamosa granted the SLV Regional Medical Center a Worksite Wellness Grant to improve the health and wellness of hospital employees.  As part of the grant, Morgan was sent to the Third Annual FoodMed Conference in Detroit, MI.  The conference was designed to help participants incorporate sustainable and nutritious food purchasing practices at their institution, while learning cost effective strategies that emphasize health concerns that meet the unique needs of healthcare and facilitate the development of healthy communities.

“After the conference, I knew our mission at the hospital.  Recycle.  Eliminate non-compostable materials. And start buying local foods,” said Morgan.

In February 2009, the SLVRMC started its Go Green Initiative.  The goal was to provide “fresh, local, and sustainable food… to help prevent food related health concerns by modeling good nutrition in our institution.  We also want to influence and educate our patients, staff and community how food is produced and distributed.”

Daily, the SLVRMC cafeteria serves between 250-325 individuals and 16-35 patients.  To meet its mission, the hospital began purchasing 80 pounds of USDA processed, certified organic, 100% grass finished beef from KW Farms, located between Mosca and Alamosa.  All vegetables and greens now served in the cafeteria are now organic, either coming from the Alligator Farm or from US Foods organic line.  All chicken used in dishes or at the salad bar is also hormone free.

“Cost is no longer a big deal.  We just worked it into our budget.  Even the larger food distributors like Sara Lee and Tyson know they have to change their practices,” Morgan said in response to the cost differential in buying “green” products.

The hospital “Green Team” has also cut down on waste.  Through an employee campaign, china was purchased for the cafeteria, recycle containers for aluminum cans and plastic bottles, reusable to-go containers, and a bin at the back dock for office paper.

In the cafeteria, disposable use has been cut down from 30,934 pieces to 2,046 pieces.  Inspiring this number, SLVRMC made the decision that “if you choose to use a disposable paper cup, container, or bowl there will be a small up-charge.”  Otherwise, reusable to-go containers and soup mugs are provided.

Because of these changes, the hospital went from only recycling cardboard to monthly recycling 152 gallons of aluminum cans, 297 gallons of plastic bottles, 3200 lbs of cardboard, 240 gallons of tin cans, and 600 lbs of white office paper.

“Living in a smaller, rural, and agriculturally based area has made this transition easier.  It wasn’t hard to find local producers that fit our needs.  I just used word of mouth and internal emails,” Morgan said in response to how the hospital brought the initiative to life.

Looking toward the future, Morgan discussed the garden plot located on the south side of the hospital, which will allow the hospital to eat seasonally.

“Obesity, diabetes… so many health-related ailments are strongly connected to diet.  Diet is something we can control.” Morgan concluded. is powered by WordPress µ | Spam prevention powered by Akismet