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Implementing Community Outreach and Education Programs

June 9, 2020
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Old habits die hard — especially eating habits. Transforming them is no cake walk. But, hospitals and healthcare organizations sit in a unique position to change the way patients, staff and the surrounding community think about food. Health is their specialty. So naturally, they’re viewed as more qualified and credible than most when it comes to healthy eating recommendations.

Because of this, there’s an opportunity for foodservice operators in hospitals, clinics, rehab facilities, and more to be a part of something bigger. With a concerted effort and a healthy dose of creativity, they can have a profound impact on the community, spread their wellness wisdom, and help themselves by dispelling the dreaded “hospital food” stigma that’s plagued them for decades.

Ready to lead the charge? Let’s talk ideas.

Offer wellness workshops
Whether you want to offer them in-person or online, wellness workshops are the perfect way to promote healthier habits, and connect with your community at the same time. From meal planning to nutritious cooking classes, brainstorm with your staff to come up with a seasonal calendar of wellness workshops. Not only does this benefit your community, but it keeps your team engaged and raises awareness for your hospital’s tip-top cooking chops.

Join the farm-to-hospital movement
Across the country, healthcare facilities are joining the farm-to-table movement, but they’ve put their own “farm-to-hospital” stamp on it. By establishing a partnership with a local farm to source your facility’s food, you too can join that movement. But that’s just the start. Add innovative initiatives to expand your community’s access to this fresh, healthy, and locally-grown produce. For example, you can hold an on-site farmers’ market, serve as a drop site for a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, or create a designated area in the hospital where low-income patients can grab healthy food and snacks.

These farm-to-hospital programs are a win-win for everyone involved. They cultivate healthy eating habits among your patients, staff and community. They support the operations of local farmers and increase their financial opportunity. And they reinforce the health-conscious and community-minded values you stand for as an organization.

Participate in local events
Keep tabs on local happenings such as farmers’ markets, health fairs and other community events. Find opportunities to strut your stuff and spread the good word by offering healthy cooking demos or even setting up a booth with a nutritionist to answer questions and share healthy eating tips with the community. This helps you not only build relationships with other instrumental players in the community, but it also establishes your organization as a leading health expert that cares about the community.

Distribute a nutrition newsletter
Thanks to modern technology, you don’t have to be at in-person events to connect with the community. Keep up relationships with your community by distributing a monthly or quarterly newsletter with nutrition tips. Extend your reach by gathering people’s information at community events, classes and workshops and before you know it, you’ll have quite the network.

Contribute to the greater good within your own walls
As you think about implementing community outreach and education programs, remember to apply altruistic efforts internally too. One place to start? Implement strategies to reduce food waste.

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