The next time you’re at a hospital, don’t be surprised if you stumble upon a farmers market. According to CNN, farmers markets are popping up at more and more hospitals. You can find farmers markets at places like Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York, University of California San Francisco Medical Center, The Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville, and the Cleveland Clinic. Kaiser Permanente has 30 farmers markets in states like California, Washington, and Oregon.
So why are farmers markets becoming so popular with hospitals? It’s part of the effort by some hospitals to put their food “on a diet.” A lot of hospital cafeterias offer things like fried foods and burgers. In fact, 42% of hospitals in one study admitted to selling fast food such as Wendy's, McDonald's and Pizza Hut! If patients are told by a doctor at the hospital that they need to eat healthier or go on a diet – and the hospital serves things like burgers and fries - it sends the wrong message. However, if you put a farmers market next to a hospital, patients who’ve been warned to improve their diets can now walk out of the hospital and find locally grown strawberries, apricots, and baby red potatoes. That sends a better message. Dr. Preston Maring – a family physician who brought the concept of farmers markets to Kaiser in 2003 – feels that having locally grown fruits and vegetables next to a hospital gives people the visual connection between good food and better health.
You won’t just find healthy produce at hospital farmers markets. Locally grown vegetables and fruits are also making their way onto cafeteria trays for hospital patients, employees, and visitors. Now, instead of a container of gelatin or a glop of cake, patients may get an in-season peach or a bowl of strawberries. In fact, the cafeteria at Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington, Vermont – which uses seasonal, organic produce and serves entrees such as veggie paninis – has become a place where people who aren’t hospital employees or visitors like to eat. They just come for the food! Kind of gives a whole new meaning to the words “hospital food,” doesn’t it?