Why is hospital food so poor?

Print anything with Printful

Hospital food is often unhealthy and tasteless due to outsourcing to companies that prioritize low-cost, high-volume production. Ethnic tastes are rarely catered to, and dietary restrictions may not be accommodated. However, hospitals are starting to offer more varied, fresh, and locally produced food.

There are a number of reasons why hospital food is often less than stellar. In the early 21st century, many hospitals began to recognize the infamous reputation of hospital food, and some began pilot programs focused on improving the quality of their food. Proponents of these programs have argued that good wholesome food is a very important part of proper medical care.

Many people are surprised to learn how unhealthy hospital food is, as they assume that the food served in a hospital would be at least healthy, if not always palatable. One of the excuses that is being offered as to why hospital food tastes bad is that hospital meals are constructed with dietary concerns in mind, rather than flavor. Indeed, even meals that have been specially prepared for patients with special needs are often unhealthy, thanks to the ingredients used and the ways in which they are prepared.

Most hospitals outsource their lucrative meal plans to companies that specialize in institutional food preparation. The same companies produce food for prisons and schools, institutions that are also notorious for having terrible food. These companies focus on producing high volumes of low-cost food, often taking advantage of expanded distribution systems that allow them to send packaged and already mostly prepared foods to the hospitals they have contracts with. By the time this food reaches the hospital, it may be well past its peak, and it’s often loaded with saturated fat, sodium, and other substances that are harmful in large quantities. It’s also typically as bland as possible, so it’s inoffensive, and many things are overcooked, thanks to remote cooking and then reheating in the hospital.

Institutional food also takes advantage of bulk food costs that are often negotiated by government agencies such as the United States Department of Agriculture. Products such as corn and wheat are often supplied at very low cost, along with cheaper cuts of meat, so coffee shop floors make heavy use of these cheaper ingredients, avoiding fresh fruits and vegetables, which cost more.

Food in the hospital also rarely caters to ethnic tastes, which can be challenging for people of different cultures while in the hospital. Because canteen contracts are extremely lucrative, family members can be told not to bring food, even when it is obvious that a patient refuses to eat the food for cultural or religious reasons. For people with very specific tastes, it may be a good idea to talk to a doctor about any recommended dietary restrictions and then smuggle in food to ensure the patient is eating well.

Hospital food may be undergoing a transformation. Institutional food in general has come a long way since the 1990s, for a variety of reasons. Consumers are often more aware of the effects of eating unhealthy foods, for example, and many consumers are also starting to demand food that is ethically and sustainably produced. Hospitals that have offered a more varied fare made on site with fresh local produce have noticed the positive response and the trend is likely to continue.

Protect your devices with Threat Protection by NordVPN

Skip to content