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Hospital food gets a makeover

  • Executive Chef Todd McNeive puts the finishing touches on a spaghetti squash carbonara with scallion dish at Sutter Medical Center in Santa Rosa on Friday, January 31, 2014.
    (Christopher Chung/ The Press Democrat)

Have you ever sat in a hospital bed craving pizza for breakfast, or maybe pancakes and fresh fruit for dinner?

Well, hotel-style room service will soon be available at Sutter Medical Center in Santa Rosa and later this year at Sutter's replacement facility, which is under construction on Mark West Springs Road.

The new food service is part of Sutter's effort to recast itself as Sonoma County's premier health care provider. The hospital giant is scheduled to open its new state-of-the-art, all-private-room hospital later this year.

Implemented by Sodexo, a French multinational food services and facilities management company, the food service will replace the hospital's existing tray line service and be available to all patients.

"Every patient will be offered the same menu choices," said Michael Coyle, senior brand manager of Sodexo. "With this change, we're going to put in a program that is equal to or better than a hotel room service program."

Sutter recently hired Todd McNeive, formerly the sous chef for Oliver's Markets, to help come up with ideal menu items for a hospital setting, keeping in mind what sick patients are likely to want most as they recover their strength and health.

"The menu is based on comfort food, as well as local seasonal products, vegetables, fruits," Coyle said. "We want it to be fresh, and we want it to be local."

Under the traditional tray-line model, most patients get the same hospital food at the same time, whether they want it or not. As a result, some patients will chose not to eat their food. Some patients may even have family members bring food from home.

Coyle said that hospitals that have implemented a room-service model usually see a "consumption rate" of between 90 and 95 percent. Under the old model, consumption rates can be as low as 85 percent, depending what's being served, he said.

"They may not want to have applesauce, but it's on the tray. They may not want milk, but it's on the tray," Coyle said. "When the patient is ordering what they want to eat, they will probably be eating it."


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