Allina Health, a nonprofit health care group with 13 hospitals and 90 clinics in Minnesota and Wisconsin, says it’s terminating its relationship with McDonald’s and removing sugary beverages and fried foods from hospital cafeterias.
The move is part of an initiative called “Choose Healthy” that the health care group hopes will help both patients and staff to lead healthier lifestyles.
“As an organization focused on health, it is our responsibility to model and encourage healthy choices,” Dr. Penny Wheeler, Allina’s president and chief executive told the Star Tribune.
Hospitals like Abbott Northwestern in Minneapolis, managed by Allina Health, have been under pressure from health advocacy groups to evict McDonald’s and the unhealthy vending and cafeteria options for some time. According to the Star Tribune, Abbott has been home to McDonald’s for more than 25 years.
McDonald’s even tweaked its menu at the hospital location to offer healthier options including oatmeal, salads, yogurt, and fruit. Its Ronald McDonald Houses—the charitable arm of the franchise that houses patients undergoing long-term treatments—has also contributed millions of dollars to the Twin Cities region locations.
But in the end, it wasn’t enough for the health care operation to look past the connection between fast foods and sugary beverages pedaled by McDonald’s and the increasing rise in obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and other diet-related illnesses. Allina Health terminated its lease with McDonald's ten years before it expired, even paying for the early termination.
Minnesota Commissioner of Health Dr. Ed Ehlinger applauded the decision in a statement, "Deep-fried foods and sugar-sweetened drinks have little nutritional value,” he said, “and Allina Health’s elimination of these foods and beverages, along with the introduction of a greater variety of healthy options, sends a strong and positive message to patients, employees, and the broader community."
Allina Health's decision mirrors a growing trend in hospital food getting health makeovers. In August, Organic Authority reported on several hospitals developing relationships with local farmers and some even building their own greenhouses to grow healthy fruits and vegetables for use in cafeterias and for patient meals.
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Image: Frederic Bisson