Floriade Congress: Vegetables as medicine; good care you can taste
‘Allow food to be your medicine, and medicine to be your food’. According to Hippocrates, 2,500 years ago this was a well-chosen strategy, as shown during the Vegetable Congress held on 8 September at Floriade Expo 2022. In recent years, more and more healthcare providers have begun to see the benefits of healthy – and tasty – food in promoting health.
Things can change. While in the 1990s, many smaller health care kitchens were shut down due to the need to increase their scale and save money, in the last ten years, the nutritional interests of the patient/client have been given much greater importance. How does this benefit them? The term ‘hospital food’ needs to be upgraded. In fact, according to various speakers during the conference, healthcare has a pioneering role in this. And no, there is no question of patronising: healthy eating is simply the new norm.
In research – the health promise of a bell pepper
Although there are concrete indications that vegetables have a health-promoting effect, scientists are still looking for hard data to back this up. ‘The public-private partnership project ‘The Value(s) of Fruit and Vegetables’ is hoping to establish to what extent a fruit or vegetable has a direct health benefit. Ideally, a farmer would then be able to claim, as an extra argument, that his bell pepper or carrot contains a specific health advantage. This data does exist for medicines, tube feed or nutritional drinks, but the downside is that these products cost a lot of money and patients do not always like consuming them, or rather avoid or throw them away.
In hospital – temptation at a restaurant level
Healthy food does not cure everything, but it can certainly contribute to the recovery. The Flevo Hospital in Almere has been implementing this philosophy since 2021 with the ‘Care with taste’ project. In six daily meals, they serve – in addition to sufficient energy and protein – more than the minimum amount of 200 grams of vegetables. These dishes are appealing, tasty and easy to eat, from bite-sized sandwiches and light raw vegetables to filled soups and individual vegetable snacks. Patients seem to appreciate this approach; it is the decoration (a beautiful dish), setting (seeing food is eating it) and personal attention (serving with care) that make the difference. It is a restaurant-level temptation.
In Food Forum – the menu for the future already exists
Many healthcare organisations are still trying to get this concept on the board. The National Prevention Agreement is an important catalyst in this respect, stating that by 2030 at the latest, every hospital will be serving healthy food. Jan-Nico Appelman, member of the Provincial Executive for Flevoland, is pleased with the growing attention for healthy food, but also sees the challenge. Floriade is an inspirational platform that shows how you can work towards a healthy menu for the future, preferably with locally grown ingredients. Chef Sharon de Miranda demonstrates this perfectly in the Flevoland pavilion Food Forum. She prepared a fresh, balanced, easy, healthy and affordable menu based on no less than 95% locally grown products and 80% plants (EAT-Lancet principle).
In the field – from healthy soil to a hospital bed
According to Appelman, the basis of healthy food lies in cooperation within the entire chain, from farmers and processors to the management and chefs within care institutions. In Flevoland, for example, this includes the management of healthy soil, the development of sustainable food systems from the Flevo Campus, and the chain cooperation of an organisation such as Flevofood that gets it to a care institution via a short chain. His moral is to try to entice each other to form alliances. This is already happening. During the conference, the Health Food Wall company was awarded the prize for the most innovative idea for providing healthy food in an accessible manner for its vending machine with healthy and sustainable meals. A good example of attracting patients, guests or employees to eat healthily 24/7 in a healthcare environment. It leaves you wanting more.
The Vegetable Conference is an initiative of the Food for Better Life Style Foundation and is co-organised by Top Sector Horticulture & Source Materials (Tuinbouw & Uitgangsmaterialen), Alliance Nutrition in Healthcare (Voeding in de Zorg), Health Holland, VegetableFruit House (GroentenFruit Huis), Good Care you can Taste (Goede Zorg Proef Je), Floriade Expo 2022 and the Province of Flevoland.
Photos: Michel Heerkens / VegetableFruit House (GroenteFruit Huis)