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5 Things: Boise’s New Food Rules, Dining Hall Theft and Big Macs at Hospitals

5 Things: Boise’s New Food Rules, Dining Hall Theft and Big Macs at Hospitals

These and more are the things you missed for the week of April 6.

Each Friday I compile a list that highlights five things you probably missed in the news that week and why you should care about them.

Here’s your list for the week of April 6:

1.    Hospitals and fast food
Hospitals should promote healthy eating, right? While I doubt any hospital foodservice director would deny that statement, he would probably quickly add a qualifier along these lines: The high-stress environment of a hospital means many caregivers and families are looking for traditional comfort food items, so we should offer choice.

Many directors have struggled with drawing that balance between health and comfort. But some organizations are calling for an end to one form of often less-than-healthy fare: fast food restaurants.

One of those groups, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, created a map that shows hospitals where you can purchase that Big Mac.

Read more: Do Your State's Hospitals Serve Big Macs?

2.    Do Boise’s proposed healthy food rules go too far?
It seems that every day there’s someone trying to legislate health. From former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s attempt to tax soda all the way to the USDA’s school meal rules.

Now, Boise, Idaho, is getting in on the act. Councilman TJ Thompson has proposed several rules dealing with what can and can’t be served and where. One of those rules would ban fast food restaurants from being within 1,000 feet of a school. Another would ban advertising within 1,000 feet of a school. And another would establish nutritional guidelines that foods and beverages must meet to be sold at city-owned venues, including parks, pools and the airport.

Read more: Good government, or too much? Boise councilman unveils ‘Healthy Initiatives 2.0’

3.    Insurance company turns to tech to help promote, encourage healthy eating
UnitedHealthcare is putting its money where its mouth is. Like many companies, United Healthcare is working to make employee wellness more front and center. One way it’s working to do so is through food and nutrition and offering employees an easy way to make a healthy choice. The way that’s being done—technology.

Through a new partnership with a vending company, healthier items will be available for purchase in vending machines. Big deal, you might be asking. There’s more.  

“What we want to do then is, using big data and other technologies, incorporate [the machines] into wellness programs so that you can be rewarded for repeat purchases that you make of healthy food coming out of these,” said Kunjorn Chambundabongse, in an article in Mobi Health News. “You could potentially leverage some of the reward points through your wellness programs to actually redeem free food in there.”

Read more: UnitedHealth developing employee wellness-connected, healthy vending machine

4.    Dining hall theft racks up big bucks
Perhaps I was just too naïve to think about taking utensils out of the dining hall when I was in college. But I hear from director after director lamenting just how much they spent replacing stolen goods from the dining halls.

At the University of Vermont, Sodexo, which manages the dining program, says it spends $20,000 a year to replace stolen plates, cups, utensils, etc. But students beware: You’re paying for those items even if you think you aren’t.

“It’s not like it’s a million dollars a year, but it’s enough to increase the cost of food,” said Ron Chasse, operations director, in an article in the Vermont CYNIC.

Read more: Sodexo pays bill for utensil theft

5.    A better prescription for patient health
It’s easy to eat healthy when you’re a patient at a hospital. A dietitian, in combination with a doctor, makes that decision for you. So what happens when you leave? Two UC San Francisco students are working on just that. With help from grants, the two students are working to start a food pantry from which patients can receive food after receiving a prescription from a doctor. The other student is creating an app that helps you make better dining decisions. I know what you’re thinking, another app? But this one sounds really cool. If you knew exactly how many miles you’d have to run to work out that bag of chips, would that affect your purchasing decision? That’s exactly what this student’s app would provide.

Read more: Student Projects Get Creative to Encourage Healthy Eating

Bonus: Gonzaga Dining’s Celebrity Moment

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