Bob Menichino, director of Food & Nutrition Services at Alton Memorial Hospital, checks food labels along with Marlene Lewis, center, of the AMH Development office; and Naomi Ward, AMH outpatient dietitian.
ALTON — Alton Memorial Hospital has received a $10,000 sodium reduction grant from the Illinois Department of Public Health to develop innovative ways to encourage healthier food choices for visitors and staff in the cafeteria.
“Our goal is to create awareness of the risks of a high-sodium diet,” said Marlene Lewis of the AMH Development office. “We’ll provide educational materials for staff and visitors to become ‘Salt Savvy’ by flavoring foods using herbs, spices and salt substitutes. We will also provide information on local resources for organic and locally grown foods.”
One of those local resources is Grassroots Grocery, the first multiple-tiered income stream food cooperative in the Alton area. Founders of the store at 415 Ridge St. in downtown Alton hope to contribute to the restoration of local agriculture, keep money in the local economy, and increase access to healthy food in a low-income area designated as “limited access” or a “food desert.”
Grassroots Grocery is run as a nonprofit and employs a co-operative business model strategy of generating income through store memberships. The original planning team consisted of Dr. Jackie Burns, Christine Favilla and Sara McGibany. Burns is a professor at Principia College in Elsah; Favilla is vice president and founder of the Community Cultivators, overseeing nine community gardens in the Alton-Godfrey area; and McGibany is executive director of Alton Main Street.
“Grassroots Grocery offers products obtained from local and regional producers within a 50-mile radius whenever possible,” McGibany said. “By increasing access to organically grown and locally sourced food, the cost per unit of food is significantly reduced, making it affordable to households with diverse income levels.”
AMH also helps sponsor the Alton Main Street Farmers and Artisans Markets in downtown Alton each summer. Starting June 4 and going through Oct. 15, the market takes place in the parking lot at the corner of Landmarks Boulevard and Henry Street. Saturday hours are 8 a.m. to noon and Wednesday hours are 4-7 p.m. Visitors will find an abundance of delicious fresh produce and baked goods, including coffee and breakfast items.
Morrison Healthcare manages AMH Food and Nutrition Services and offers a wide range of food resources and expertise in the hospital setting. Morrison has developed FIT Dining Criteria that encompasses sodium awareness in the foods served. Items designated as FIT meet criteria standards that measure calories, saturated fat and sodium.
Morrison is the first health care food service contract company to commit to The Partnership for a Healthier America and its Hospital Healthy Food Initiative. Using the latest research on healthful eating and incorporating techniques that influence behavioral change in food consumption, Morrison works to improve the health profile of the hospitals served by implementing such changes as:
- Eliminating 5.7 million pounds of sugar from bottled beverages
- Switching to exclusive use of whole grain or legume-based pasta in the 3.7 million pounds of pasta it serves each year
- Offering whole grains as an alternative to the 1.9 million pounds of rice served annually
- Offering better-for-you foods in place of high-impulse low-nutrient food at cash register
- Reducing fat calories by using healthier, misted oils exclusively in appropriate applications
- Featuring images of healthy nutrient-rich food in marketing promotions.