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Here’s a Radical Thought: Hospital Meals That Are Good For You

Why your local hospital ought to start a farm

It’s hard to believe in this era of hyper foodie-ism—much of it health-focused—that the quality of hospital meals continues to be on par with prison food. A solution to the problem is gathering momentum, however. Modern Farmer calls it “farm to hospital bed” and describes a trend in which a dozen hospitals in the U.S. are maintaining on site farms so that they can serve from scratch meals for their patients. At Watertown Regional Medical Center in Wisconsin, for example, 60 acres of farmland allows for foods like house-made pepperoni or pumpkin cranberry muffins to be sourced and prepared on site for all patients. No heat and serve here: All of the meals are cooked fresh to order with locally sourced ingredients—even down to the pigs, poultry, and cows they butcher. Amazingly, the costs don’t seem like they’re passed onto the patient, but are borne out of hospital budgets.

As revolutionary as this sounds, this common sense approach to healthcare has historical precedents. Many hospitals in the United States and Europe, like the New Hampshire Hospital, had farms on site to not only produce food for patients and staff, but also as working rehabilitation, for psychiatric patients in particular—a model that dates to Medieval Europe, and until recently many European psychiatric hospitals in particular maintained their own on-site farms. In Strasbourg, France, a 14th century wine cellar that continues to exist beneath the city’s famed hospital stored not only fermenting grape juice, but also foods and grains for its patients. So, perhaps it’s not too much of a stretch to imagine a day in the not so distant future when we are tasting vintages like Chateau Cleveland Clinic.

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