‘Are you sure you can microwave a chimichanga that big?’

I thought a posting might be a good tool of exploration into my motivations, as I prepare for my second day working with the Food Service Department of the Oakland Children’s Hospitals, I had thought I had some what of a grasp on the role I would be serving within this department, but I was confused on several fronts.

Points of Clarification:
The “Friendly Cafe,” as it is called is not affiliated with the hospital itself; it is run via contract by a company known as Morrison Management. This company has standing contracts with both Coke and Pepsi. Thus, I am a outside unpaid consultant for Morrison management
Morrison Management’s incentives to improve the nutritional value of the Friendly Café’s fry grill menu is two pronged.
1) The New York Times article encountered after the début of a study conducted by UCLA bestowing the Café with the dubious title of 14th out 14 hospitals assessed for nutritional quality.
2) The signing of a Healthy Hospital Food Commitment with hospital administrators and the city of Oakland, outlining a time-line of lofty nutrition goals to be reached annual up to and including 2015 (some of those goals are listed below).

Harsh Realities:
The motivation is not driven by any sort of genuine concern for the heath and well being of the staff and families visiting the cafe.
Coke and Pepsi have to still make money (hence the reason Diet Soda constitutes a healthy alternative in the ratio’s of healthy to unhealthy drinks outlined in this commitment)
According to daily sales reports the top selling item at the Friendly Café is bacon… followed by french fries.

O’ the Obstacles:
Price: The unhealthy options are priced cheaper than the current healthy options. You can add bacon 50 cents or an apple for a dollar.
Clientèle: This is a hospital… for children, tragic things are happening. In times of crisis people do not flock to the salad bar or reach for a banana. The families coming to this cafe are looking for a bit of solace and comfort from their meal. Currently this urge filled in form of a menu that more closely resembles an AM/PM than a hospital.
Layout: Upon entering the cafe one first passes the vending machines, stuffed with quick empty snacks and diabolical microwavables. After that the fry grill comes into veiw, then the deli, and finally the healthy hotbar. The salad bar is tucked in the back corner only to be seen by those who seek it, and its quite a snore.

Goals: (as per Healthy Hospital Food Commitment)
Offer daily Children’s Wellness Meal for patients that is under 560 calories and less than 10% fat and price equivalent or lower than all other meal options
Offer daily Wellness Meal for patients that is under 700 calories and less than 10% fat and price equivalent or lower than all other meal options.
Increase percentage of fruit and vegitable dollar purchases by 20% annually starting with 2012
Increase the percentage of healthy beverage dollar purchases to reflect 80% of total beverage purchase by July 1st 2015.

A’ight, there’s the rough and dirty picture to orient me a tad. This is the type of situation I was seeking, it reflects the harsh realities of both capitalism, our country, and our human nature. These realities are not going anywhere so one must work within them. Still this hospital has a responsiblity to set a healthy example too the parents of what has become the fattest generation. At the same time it has a responsibility to serve food that will keep the staff of this hospital functioning optimally as they take care of the children it houses. I’ll keep my idealism but the solutions to these problems can’t threaten almighty revenue. No one is getting healthy unless Coke and Pepsi are getting paid.

Good thing diet soda constitutes a healthy beverage.


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