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Hospitals Target Junk Food in Cafeterias, Vending Machines
September 24, 2012

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Add hospitals to the list of entities cracking down on junk food.

A plan by New York City hospitals will restrict the kinds of foods found in cafeterias and vending machines. This follows on from an earlier announcement from Mayor Michael Bloomberg to ban the sale of large-size sugary drinks at theaters and fast food restaurants.

The Healthy Hospital Food Initiative has found support from all 15 of the city's public hospitals and 16 private hospitals. Among the details: Deep fat fryers will disappear from hospital kitchens, and green salads and half-size sandwiches will be required menu options. Other moves including serving brown rice instead of white rice, whole grain bread instead of white bread, and yogurt instead of ice cream. This will, health officials hope, benefit everyone who eats food prepared in hospital kitchens: patients, staff, and visitors.

The plan does not, of course, preclude hospital employees or visitors from bringing their own food, healthful or not.

The kitchen overhaul follows on from a move toward revising vending machine options to include more healthful food. Already, the number of high-fat foods and high-sugar drinks is limited, and those few drink options are on the lowest racks of the machines, making them the most difficult items to retrieve once purchased. Most food options in hospital vending machines are nuts and granola bars, not baked and processed items like candy bars or cakes.

Other cities, like Boston, are following New York's lead.

Proponents of the plans say that hospitals exist to help people get better and so should naturally offer food choices. Critics of the plans say that their food choices are being unfairly limited.

The plan comes on the heels of results of a trio of major studies supporting the theory that consuming sugary drinks helps children along the road to obesity.

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