Freeman becomes first Missouri hospital to sign Healthy Food in Healthcare Pledge

Wednesday, December 01, 2010 - Freeman becomes first Missouri hospital to sign Healthy Food in Healthcare Pledge

JOPLIN, Mo.—A $300,000 grant from Missouri Foundation for Health (MFH) enables Freeman Health System to increase and promote the availability of nutritious foods to patients, employees, and visitors. The Healthy and Active Communities grant will impact more than one million meals Freeman serves annually to four-state residents, including cafeteria selections, patient meals, vending foods, and catering options.

In addition to the changes implemented through the MFH grant, Freeman recently became the first hospital in Missouri to sign Healthy Food in Healthcare Pledge, further establishing the health system's commitment to serving local, nutritious, and sustainable food. The pledge, part of the national Healthy Food in Healthcare Initiative developed by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy and Health Care Without Harm, is Freeman’s first step to improving community health through food policy change.

“As a healthcare provider, Freeman Health System strives to be an agent of food change in southwest Missouri,” said Gary Duncan, Freeman President and Chief Executive Officer. “Research has shown that one of the greatest barriers to improving health is the availability of fresh foods. Freeman will help overcome this obstacle by increasing offerings of fresh produce, hopefully promoting lifestyle changes to lower the number of individuals struggling with obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.”

According to Missouri Department of Health and Human Services, 19 percent of southwest Missouri residents are in fair or poor health and 24 percent have activity limitations. Seventy-eight percent eat fewer than five servings of fruits or vegetables per day, and 65.5 percent are obese.

With the assistance of funding provided through the MFH grant, Freeman will increase the amount of fresh, locally and regionally grown foods served within the health system by 20 percent. Farmers markets will be established at each of the system’s three campuses to make fresh produce available to the community. In addition, Freeman Green Team and Facilities Management will explore opportunities to plant fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs.

All Freeman meals will be aligned with United States Department of Agriculture Dietary Guidelines and will feature right-size food portions. The purchase of broilers, steamers, and additional salad bars will maximize nutritious food options such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Cafeteria displays with menu item nutrition information will help patients, employees, and visitors make informed dietary decisions.

“Hospital food purchasing decisions and policies play an important role in preventive healthcare,” said Marie Kulick, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy Senior Analyst. “We are very excited that Freeman Health System is the first hospital in the state to sign the Healthy Food in Healthcare Pledge and can begin to make immediate, important changes through the generous support of the Missouri Foundation for Health.”

About Freeman Health System
Not-for-profit, community-owned, and locally governed, Freeman Health System is a 404-bed, three-hospital system. Based in Joplin, the fourth largest metropolitan area in Missouri, Freeman provides comprehensive healthcare and behavioral health services to an area that includes more than 450,000 residents from Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas. For more information, visit freemanhealth.com or facebook.com/freemanhealthsystem. Follow Gary Duncan, Freeman President and Chief Executive Officer, at twitter.com/freemanceo.