Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Hospital Cafeterias

When I did my dissertation, which involved interviews at over 30 medical schools, I had this idea for a side project "guide to hospital cafeterias" It was amazing to me how many of them had not a single healthy option anywhere in sight. The best that I remember (15 years later) were Stanford, Cleveland Clinic, and Pittsburgh. I was reminded of this when I went off to our cafeteria today and discovered it had changed (name and presumably management) since the last time I was there. The salad bar looked better. The soup relatively unchanged, the pastries better, the hot food potentially better, but hard to tell. Interestingly, all the nutrition information signs that had been posted in the former cafeteria version were gone, so I'm back to guessing about what should be healthy (lentil soup and plain yogurt made the cut). There were also a lot of food displays, but I couldn't figure out if they were just for show. Most notably, there were cupcakes for sale on a table. I have less than zero interest in cupcakes, but on the table were large bowls filled with raspberries, blueberries, and nuts. I wanted a bowl of those, but wasn't sure they were actually available. The other downside was the $1.09 price tag per piece of fruit. Really??! $1.09 for a single banana, tangerine, apple or plum. On the upside, if you wanted to spend the money, there were blood oranges available, but I am pretty sure they are 4/5 for $1 at the terminal. Seems it would make more sense to make the less healthy food more expensive. I rarely eat in the cafeteria anyway, far preferring the food carts. And lest you think that means hot dogs, at Penn the food carts are quite the gourmand paradise. We have the usual chinese, burgers, etc, but also Mexican/Indian (nothing like the chole kulche - chickpea curry - quesadilla), Organic Vegetarian Middle Eastern, and a Creperie. Less expensive, healthier and much less crowded dining options, plus as my office has no windows, it is an excuse to get outside when the weather is at all decent.

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