The once trendy, now common expression for eating fresh and healthy food is farm-to-table. But there’s nothing that says that table has to be in someone’s house or a restaurant. That thought occurred to Molly Schneider-Ferrari ’17 while she was working in the nutrition department at Wentworth-Douglass Hospital. Why not make local food available there, too?
Schneider-Ferrari started at the Dover, New Hampshire, hospital in July. She has known since then that when it came time to consider a topic for her senior capstone project, Wentworth-Douglass would play a role. Earlier this week she presented “Farm to Hospital: Bringing Local Food into Wentworth Douglass Hospital” at UNH’s 18th annual Undergraduate Research Conference.
“I came to realize just how much food comes out of the kitchen,” says Schneider-Ferrari, a nutrition and ecogastronomy dual major. “The hospital cafeteria is open to the public, so it is not just employees and people visiting patients who come to eat. There are steady flows of locals who come in for a quick bite because they know the food is reasonably priced, fast and tastes good. If there were to be a locally sourced meal it could attract more people.”
For her project, Schneider-Ferrari worked with the head of the nutrition department and the hospital’s head chef to see how local items could be added to the menu. Like many large hospitals, Wentworth-Douglass uses a food service company that has established purveyors. To offer local food would mean connecting farmers with that company’s suppliers.
“Wentworth Douglass is a big part of the Dover community and supporting local businesses is good publicity for the hospital,” Schneider-Ferrari says, adding that she realizes a hospital’s first priority is to provide exemplary care to its patients. “But what they eat is still important. If a patient needs to be eating three meals a day to maintain a healthy weight, they should enjoy the food they are eating.”
While Wentworth-Douglass has not yet gone local, Schneider-Ferrari has devised a plan that she hopes they will eventually implement.
“Hospital food always has had a stigma for being bad, but that is changing. The meals that are coming out of the hospital kitchen now do taste good and are made well, but adding some local flavor could boost it even more,“ she says.