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Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital

Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, one of the largest teaching hospitals of its kind has more than 18,000 admissions annually, serving 408 patient beds daily. With that kind of traffic it’s a feat to shift perceptions. But Ruben Cosio, Director of Hospitality Services for the hospital is making the words,
“This tastes like hospital food,” a compliment in their food service industry. Led by the Culinary and Clinical Nutrition Staff of Cottage Health System
(CHS), the food service at their facilities represents a fusion of pleasure and principles. Patients and staff are served locally sourced, sustainable, natural and organic foods.

Pledge to Healthier Food
Food is preventative medicine on many nutritional levels. But when the treating, production and distribution of that food harms the environment, the end product or the consumer, the result is less preventative and more detrimental.

Along with 364 other hospitals around the country, the CHS nutrition department joined the Healthy Food in Health Care pledge in an effort to demonstrate leadership and commitment to health and sustainability in the hospital food service industry.

It begins with modeling healthy food practices at the hospital.

“We are located in the salad bowl of California. It would be criminal not to do what we are doing,” says Cosio, who with 17 dieticians on staff serve
nearly 3,600 meals a day.

His team takes care to provide a wide variety of foods that are nourishing and prepared with care and of course clinically appropriate for all of the special diets prescribed by their medical staff.

Therapeutic diet prescriptions are taken very seriously as special populations require different dietary approaches to gain and maintain health. From gluten-free and diabetic to low sodium and heart-healthy diets, Cosio’s team cooks 45-50 different meal types to serve those dietary needs.

Trailblazing can only happen when organizations like Cottage Hospital push for change as they demand more wholesome ingredients; even Jordano’s is working to meet Cosio’s demands. Specifically, Cottage Hospital worked with Jordano’s to bring in a new low-sodium, organic line of soups.

“We’re looking for foods that are as minimally processed as we can get,” he says. But this shift in quality is attracting other hospitals that are looking to make a change as they prepare for the mandates and regulations coming down by 2014 when the Patient Affordable Care Act is set to launch. Hospitals’ federal reimbursements will be dependent on how patients score the hospitals.

Effecting Healthy Environments
The commitment to responsible food preparation extends beyond the kitchen. Efforts to compost and recycle items in the kitchen and cafeteria have an impact with the crowd CHS serves. Compostable, recyclable and biodegradable containers, cups and napkins are also used at all of CHS’s restaurants. By incorporating these major changes into their food service operation, Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital is a leader in the movement that is changing how Californians look at hospital food.