The Hospital Communities of Practice for Healthy Food Environments project was created to increase the availability of food venues (cafeterias, concession stands, snack bars, and vending machines) serving healthier meal choices. To accomplish this, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity (DNPAO) funded ACPM to assist select hospitals in addressing the healthfulness of foods and beverages in their onsite dining facilities.

The goal of the Hospital Communities of practice is to increase the healthfulness of food service in hospitals’ food venues through a collaboration of select health systems to highlight hospitals as models of health in the community. The objective is to assess the current food service environment using CDC’s Smart Food Service Guidelines Checklist to identify areas that need improvement and implement changes to the health systems’ guidelines to meet the Federal Food and Nutrition Standards.

Following the conclusion of the information gathering period and implemention process, the following considerations were identified for implementing changes to hospital onsite dining facilities:
  • The change process takes time and requires work force and sometimes an upfront investment.
  • Obtain organizational, executive, and leadership buy-in.
  • Obtain buy-in from staff to ensure menu items are well received.
  • Assess workflow to envision how changes to the guidelines will affect current operations.
  • Have a dedicated champion such as an operations manager who can balance daily operations and new changes.   
  • Work with vendors to make changes to the menu that meet organizational goals for a healthy food environment.
  • Develop a pricing strategy to balance the price of healthier meal options and price per portion size to match competitors.
  • Highlight menu items provided by local vendors to encourage support from customers.
  • Use a nutrition analysis software to identify and label the content of menu items to facilitate the implementation process.
  • Prepare customers for menu changes by offering surveys to obtain their feedback and advertise menu items before they are rolled out.
  • Pilot test new menu items and rework or eliminate items that do not sell.
  • Provide incentives for customers and employees by rewarding them for eating healthy.
  • Expect challenges and plan accordingly.
These considerations and recommendations are included in the infographic Key Considerations for Healthy Food Venue Services.