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How Healthful Is Your Hospital Food?

Hospital food in Garden City, Mich. (Hospital Food)

That hospital food is less than appetizing is not exactly news. But there's still something fascinating about actually seeing what a medical institution will feed its patients.

Hence the popularity of a new Web site, Hospital Food, which collects photos of hospital meals from around the world. There's something resembling lasagna and broccoli in Garden City, Mich.; chicken curry with rice in Sweden (complete with a fork that looks straight from Ikea). Most are utterly unappealing. If I get sick, I want to be in Japan, where one hospital served up a gorgeous plate including a whole fish, miso soup and rice.

Renaud Dehareng of Belgium launched the site eight days ago after visiting a friend in the hospital who complained about the meals. "We don't go to hospitals for gastronomy, of course," Dehareng wrote in an e-mail. "But sometimes, the food is so bad that the patient feels VERY bad too." Already, 86,000 unique visitors have come to the site.

Hospital administrators are not unaware of the criticism of their food. Many are striving to improve quality. Scores of U.S. hospitals have signed a "Healthy Food in Health Care" pledge, which calls for the institutions to work with local farmers and encourage other suppliers to offer foods produced without synthetic pesticides and hormones or antibiotics. Hospitals are taking out deep-fryers and adding whole grains. Some, including three in Maryland -- Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, the University of Maryland Medical Center and Johns Hopkins Hospital -- are even starting farmers markets.

If one of them one day serves a truly farm-to-fork meal to a patient, wouldn't you want to see a photo?

-- Jane Black

By Jane Black  |  May 8, 2009; 3:28 PM ET
 | Tags: Jane Black, Web sites, health  
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