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Hospitals attempt to avoid fast food

Thinking about typical hospital food may conjure up images of macaroni and applesauce cups, but the guests and staff of Duke Hospital have many more choices-from fresh salads, to calzones, to Thickburgers.

A recently released study, however, suggests that some hospital food options are not necessarily a good thing.

The study, authored by Dr. Lenny Lesser, coordinator of the American Medical Student Association's Healthy Hospitals Campaign, found that out of 234 university-affiliated hospitals, 42 percent sold brand-name fast food.

"[The point of the study was to] bring attention to the fact that lots of the hospital food served is food that is generally not consistent with a hospital's mission of improving health," Lesser said, calling some university-affiliated hospital food conditions "deplorable."

Although the study commended the Duke Children's Hospital and Health Center in particular for getting rid of fast-food vendors such as Domino's Pizza, Lesser criticized the continued presence of other unhealthy vendors, such as Hardee's, in the Hospital's cafeteria.

Vikram Devisetty, a medical student who helped revive the University's AMSA chapter a few years ago, said Duke Hospital "needs to put its money where its mouth is" in providing healthy food options.

"A lot of families don't want to eat hospital food-the easiest way to get food is to go to Hardee's," Devisetty said. "That's not to say fast food doesn't have its place, but at the same time, the Children's Hospital will hopefully provide for the well-being of children."

Christopher DiFrancesco, a spokesperson for the Duke University Medical Center, said the hospital tries to accommodate both the preferences and nutritional needs of its dining patrons.

"It's very important to offer a variety of healthy food choices. We offer wonderful salad bars, fresh fruits and vegetables, and healthy entrees," DiFrancesco wrote in an e-mail.

"But we understand that sometimes people want options like pizza or a hamburger, and it would be difficult to eliminate those choices entirely," he added.

Some Hospital food consumers did not think hospitals needed to provide only healthy food, but lamented the lack of choices available.

Douglas Hadeen, a senior pulmonary fellow at the Hospital who is a Hardee's patron, said individuals besides patients eat at the cafeteria and need their own food choices.

"It's fine to offer [fast food] as long as there's an alternative-it should reflect what's available in the community," he said. "There ought to be healthy options besides the salad bar, but there aren't really enough healthy options."

Devisetty noted that despite the continued presence of fast-food options like Hardee's, the Hospital has been making positive changes, including adding more variety and putting healthier options in vending machines.

"They certainly have improved choices," he said.

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