Potsdam, Gouverneur hospitals stocking cafeterias with healthier choices
Tuesday, December 5, 2017 - 5:25 pm

St. Lawrence Health System’s Canton-Potsdam and Gouverneur Hospitals are taking steps to serve up healthier choices in their cafeterias and vending machines.

The effort began last year when Canton-Potsdam Hospital committed to double the amount spent on locally grown produce for use in the cafeteria. To do that, the hospital’s food service connected with North Country Grown, which now delivers locally grown vegetables weekly and local maple syrup monthly. That effort continues.

At the same time, through the hospital’s CPHealthy employee wellness program, the hospital offered to subsidize employee CSA (community supported agriculture) purchases, in order to make accessing local produce more affordable for employees.

“In 2016 the hospital subsidized 16 ‘shares,’ and this year we’re up to 31,” said CPH Director of Wellness and Sustainability Laura Cordts. “We also purchased CSA shares for the CPH and Gouverneur Hospital cafeterias, which gives the food service staff the opportunity to experiment with recipes and ingredients they might not otherwise try.” They also purchased a CSA share for the Population Health “Health Buddies” program, which matches college students with local families who have children with chronic diseases, Cordts said.

The CPHealthy Program also purchased 250 farmers’ market tokens from GardenShare and gave them out as rewards to employees participating in a physical activity challenge. “We got great feedback from our staff on that. It was a fun way to reward and reinforce healthy behavior,” Cordts said.

A Healthy Schools and Communities grant from the St. Lawrence Health Initiative will enable Gouverneur Hospital to purchase a new refrigerated merchandiser to offer more fresh items for sale in the cafeteria.

“One condition of receiving those grant funds was that the hospital also had to enact a policy of serving healthier foods,” said Cordts. Both Hospitals adopted a similar policy on what is available in their vending machines. “This isn’t about making drastic changes,” she said. “We’re just trying to make healthy options easier and more abundant. As health care providers, and as major employers in our community, these are concrete ways for us to carry out our mission.”

Those looking to learn more about CSA and GardenShare can visit http://www.gardenshare.org/.