11 NYC Hospital Programs Working to Improve Lives Through Food

by Deirdre Appel

While hospitals are a place of treatment and healing, this mandate does not always extend to the cafeterias or the food served to patients. Lack of nutritious meals is not just unappetizing; it may exacerbate the very problems that have landed patients in the hospital in the first place. Driven by consumer demand and a stronger recognition of the links between diet and health outcomes, hospitals and their partners around New York are creating new programs that encourage healthier, more local and sustainable food and are promoting good health both inside and outside the hospital.

Bronx Lebanon Hospital Center
Location: Bronx
Name of program: Bronx-Lebanon Department of Family Medicine, Fit4D Program
Year Started: 2017
How it is changing lives through food: In 2017 the Bronx Lebanon Hospital Center and Fit4D (now named Cecelia Health) won a major grant award from the Robin Hood Foundation. Through the grant, the hospital and Fit4D offer personalized coaching to diabetes patients who are managing their disease. Spearheaded by the Department of Family Medicine, the program targets immigrant and Latino diabetes patients by providing them increased access to treatment and coaches. As part of the program, patients receive one-on-one support from certified diabetes coaches, who build relationships through multiple methods including in-person visits, phone calls, texts and emails,  in order to educate patients about drug therapies, motivate them to make better lifestyle choices, encourage smarter and healthier diets, and provide emotional support.
Where to find out more: Here, here and here

Lenox Hill Hospital
Location: Manhattan, Upper East Side
Name of Program: Victory Greens
Year Started: 2015
How it is changing lives through food: Victory Greens is New York City’s only hospital-based, organic rooftop garden. Started in 2015, Victory Greens is approaching in its sixth growing season. More than just a green sanctuary, the rooftop it is designed to inspire healthy and sustainable living. Staff members gather herbs and plants that they can take home and the Lenox Hill food service department uses fresh herbs for key ingredients in hospital meals. Though the space is primarily for employees to find refuge during breaks in their hectic shifts, the Lenox Hill team is thinking up ways to incorporate it into patient recovery through exercise or nutrition classes. Fun fact: There’s at least one species indigenous to every continent represented in the garden, and nearly 100 varieties of plants, herbs, vegetables, and fruit are currently growing on the rooftop.
Where to find out more: Here, here and here

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Institute
Location: Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx
Name of program: Food to Overcome Outcome Disparities
Year started: 2011
How it is changing lives through food: Food to Overcome Outcome Disparities (FOOD) is working to improve food security among immigrants and other medically underserved people who are undergoing treatment for cancer and other chronic illnesses. Since the program began in 2011 it has delivered more than 19,000 bags of nourishing food to more than 2,400 patients and families throughout Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. The FOOD Program has recently partnered with the Green Bronx Machine and GrowNYC to add farm-fresh produce to its deliveries. But it is not only food that the program provides; education is also served. Patients can attend nutritionist-led workshops to learn how to eat a healthy diet on a budget, and clinicians can complete FOOD Provider Training Courses that stress the importance of addressing food intake and access when working with patients.
Where to find out more: Here and here

Montefiore Medical Center
Location: Bronx
Name of program: Healthy Bucks
Year Started: 2001
How it is changing lives through food: As part of New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Healthy Hospital Food Initiative, Montefiore Medical Center has revamped their approach to food and healthy eating for patients. In addition to making healthier food available within the hospital, Montefiore participates in NYC Health Bucks, a fruit and vegetable voucher program, to make healthy foods available outside the hospital for patients as well. The program remains in great demand with a 98 percent redemption rate for all Health Bucks distributed. Health Bucks are made available to patients who participate in Montefiore’s health education program and diabetes prevention classes and to those who participate in the staff-led tours of farmers markets across the Bronx.
Where to Find Out More: Here and here

Montefiore Medical Center
Location: Bronx
Name of program: Montefiore Healthy Store Initiative
Year Started: 2013
How it is changing lives through food: The Wakefield, Moses, and Weiler Campuses of Montefiore Medical Center have earned “Gold Star” recognition for their participation in the Healthy Hospital Food Initiative. In addition to the Healthy Bucks program, Montefiore helps bodegas in targeted neighborhoods (those with the highest rates of obesity) provide healthy food and beverage options through investment, support, and education. Since its inception, the program has helped nine bodegas earn the Shop Healthy NYC! designation.
Where to Find Out More: Here and here

Montefiore Medical Center
Location: Bronx
Name of program:
Montefiore Einstein Cardiac Wellness Program 
Year Started: 
How it is changing lives through food:
The Cardiac Wellness Program at Montefiore brings a unique, nutrition-centered approach to the management of cardiovascular disease. The program aims to prevent and reverse heart disease with a whole-food, plant-based diet. Created and directed by Robert Ostfeld, MD, MSc, together with Lauren Graf, MS, RD, the program works with patients to embrace a diet that includes no animal products and consists of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, legumes such as lentils and chickpeas, a small amount of nuts and avocado, as well as dairy alternatives.
Where to Find Out More: 

Mount Sinai Hospital
Location: Manhattan
Name of program: Mount Sinai Greenmarket
Year Started: 2012
How it is changing lives through food: Mount Sinai has two notable initiatives to promote a healthier lifestyle and smarter food choices. The Mount Sinai Greenmarket is a partnership between the Mount Sinai Hospital and GrowNYC, that invites patients, family members and staff to buy locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables from June to November right outside their hospital doors. In addition to selling produce and vegetables, Mount Sinai also offers free medical screenings and healthy cooking demos at the market. To further encourage healthy eating, for every $5 spent in food stamps, Greenmarket shoppers receive $2 in NYC Health Bucks which can be used to purchase additional fruits and vegetables at all other NYC farmers markets.
Where to find out more: Here and here

Mount Sinai Health System
Location: Throughout the eight hospitals in the Mount Sinai network
Name of program: Mount Sinai Health System and Epicured Partnership
Year started: 2019
How it is changing lives through food: In January 2019 the Mount Sinai Health System announced that it would be strengthening its partnership with Epicured through a third round of funding by the Dr. Henry D. Janowitz Division of Gastroenterology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and by Mount Sinai Ventures, the investment arm of the Health System. Epicured is a meal delivery service in the United States that offers a low-FODMAP and gluten-free menu to patients managing digestive diseases, such as irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, colitis, and celiac gluten sensitivity. The partners have collaborative plans for 2019 that include healthy eating campaigns targeted to the health system’s 38,00 employees and research initiatives in conjunction with the Department of Medicine.
Where to find out more: Here

New York Presbyterian Network
Location(s): Allen Hospital, Columbia University Irving Medical Center, Weill Cornell Medical Center and Westchester Division
Name of program: Meatless Mondays
Year Started: 2018
How it is changing lives through food: In early 2018 New York Presbyterian (NYP) launched an initiative called “Meatless Mondays” at four participating hospital cafeterias, three of which are located in Manhattan and one located in White Plains, New York. As the name suggests, these cafeterias offer meatless meal options on Mondays. NYP’s Meatless Monday initiative, a collaboration between the Department of Food & Nutrition, NYPBeHealthy, and NYPGreen, aims to educate employees, students, patients and visitors about the health and environmental benefits of consuming less meat in order to reduce the spread of preventable health conditions such as cancer, heart disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Where to find out more: Here, here, here or contact nypbehealthy@nyp.org

NYC Health & Hospitals/Bellevue
Location: Manhattan
Name of program: Plant-based Lifestyle Medicine Program
Year Started: 2018
How it is changing lives through food: In 2017 NYC Health & Hospitals/Bellevue developed its Plant-based Lifestyle Medicine Program, which offers patients with chronic diseases support services to help them transition to and stick with a plant-based, whole-foods diet in order to improve chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. The public health system has invested $400,000 in the pilot program, which officially launched in early 2018 with more than 300 participating patients. In addition to access to physicians, dieticians and health coaches, the program partners with the Health Bucks and Healthy Savings programs, which provide patients with access to fresh fruits and vegetables at farmers markets or discounts on local produce in supermarkets.
Where to find out more: Here, here or here

NYC Health + Hospitals/Coney Island
Location: Brooklyn, Coney Island
Name of program: Advanced Meal Delivery System
Year Started: 2018
How it is changing lives through food: Last September NYC Health + Hospital announced a plan to roll out an advanced meal delivery system throughout its hospitals in order to improve patient meal experiences. NYC Health + Hospital/Coney Island became the first public hospital to introduce this new technology, which ensures that food reaches hospital patients at optimal temperatures and maintains its nutrition content from kitchen to hospital room. In addition, the new delivery carts are able to provide more menu options than the older food delivery system.
Where to find out more: Here

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