skip navigation
Support KUOW

Northwest Hospitals Spice Up Bland Menus

Doug Nadvornick

Hospitals are not known for the quality of their food. Many Northwest hospitals have tired of the complaints about the food they serve, so they're spicing up their menus. Correspondent Doug Nadvornick takes us to one Spokane facility where better food is leading to a better bottom line.


At lunchtime, the cafeteria at Spokane's Sacred Heart Medical Center is hopping. Michelle Duke watches her customers dodge each other as they move from one food station to the next. Today's special is short ribs, but Duke also points us to a pasta bar and desserts galore.

Michelle Duke: "And you know, I've been told, best salad bar in town."

Duke's the dietitian in charge of this cafe. She's also in charge of feeding the sick people upstairs.

Michelle Duke: "A lot of what we do here is treat people that are really ill and have a lot of diet restrictions."

Such as no salt, no sugar, no fat. Duke says the effect was a blander menu overall. She says the hospital heard enough complaints that, a few years ago, it began making changes.

Michelle Duke: "We're doing fresh vegetables and lots of different entrees that we're actually creating and writing recipes for putting on the menu and letting patients pick from. It's way better than it used to be."

Kathy Pryor from the Washington chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility says Sacred Heart is one of many Northwest hospitals that are revising their menus. She says researchers are looking into whether better hospital food means healthier patients.

Kathy Pryor: "One of the things that I've heard is that when hospitals go to serving better food, the patients actually eat it. And so they heal faster because they're actually getting nourishment."

Pryor says many Northwest hospitals are buying more organic produce, as well as drug and hormone–free meat from local farmers.

Back at Sacred Heart, Michelle Duke says she's also buying more food locally. She says it costs more, but patients and staff seem willing to pay for it.

Michelle Duke: "It has been hugely successful. Our revenue has climbed exponentially."

That may be enough to convince other Northwest hospitals to revamp those tired old menus.

I'm Doug Nadvornick in Spokane.

© Copyright 2010, Northwest News Network