I thought it would be a good bit of contrast to show you the difference between modern school lunch and modern hospital food service. Now, I will admit upfront that hospital foodservice is monumentally more challenging in terms of appeasing the “customer”. For one, most children don’t have serious medical disorders that limit their ability to eat.
A rare day it would be to see a child eating pureed foods, or following a cardiac diet. 12 year old hearts just don’t give out to the extent that someone a half-century their senior might experience.
That being said, I think a comparison is a great way to view cultural and legalistic differences in the world today…. alright enough talking, I’ll debrief after you’re hungry. Bon appetit!
Japan. Bento Box
New York, USA
I’m dying at this point to give you the range of food I serve in my own workplace, sadly I’m not sure how acceptable that would be so for now I’ll give you some insight on the above.
I want you to keep a catchy little saying in mind; Starch, Veggies, Meat, and Fruit. (if you’re familiar with the head, shoulders, knees and toes song it’s the same beat).
Now, I’m no poet, but let’s call that the Dietitians Rhyme.
Go through each picture and figure out if they’re meeting the rhyme.
Who Meets the rhyme? Dubai and Australia are top notch.
I’d eat that anyday of the week. Though I won’t discount meals that don’t include a soup, but in terms of patient satisfaction I’d say these are my top pics.
Beauty contest? France and Japan are a close tie.
The bento box from Japan is absolutely beautiful, but sadly it seems most Asian countries favor starches and meat, with sparse vegetables or fruits. Giving a patient half a French loaf is a bold move, and mostly unnecessary, but who am I to change their culture. That food still looks pleasantly appetizing.
Now Middle of the Pack: Canada, Germany, and the United States
The second I saw that cranberry colored food dome from Boston I knew which country it was from. The U.S. (and I’ll further specify California), has a ton of nit-picky type laws that requires each meal to make up a “complete diet”. By this they mean that over the course of your week long menu, the patient needs to be meeting 100% of their calorie/protein/fat/fiber/chromium/calcium….. the list goes on and on.
Often, this has the undesirable effect of making the food “healthy” but not very appealing to look at. Have you tried to get your 38 grams of daily fiber? More often then not you’ll be left eating multiple cups of bland bran-cereal.
Bottom of the Barrel:
China: Starch, starch, starch, starch, meat. This would never pass in the U.S.
Poland: Uh What? Bread, cucumber, sausage. Maybe this person just wasn’t very hungry.
Norway: Is this food? I’ve never hoped harder that someone had a special diet.
So aside from sheer entertainment, the take away from all this is that hospital food has come a long way from the “slop” people so often associate with it. It may not be restaurant level of quality yet, but next time you’re in the hospital take a moment to appreciate the amount of thought that went into making it nutritionally adequate.
It might not seem like much, but I can assure you Dietitians like myself are spending countless hours trying to get it to look as appealing as possible while covering 100% of your needs.
Oh! and should you ever find yourself in that situation, submit more photos to me! I’d love to post a follow up in the future to show how things are improving.
So long and be good to each other.
–Joshua Iufer, RD