Tasty, healthy hospital food? Yes, it’s possible. While hospitals may have a reputation for bland meals (even inspiring multiple musicians to write songs called “Hospital Food,” one with the lyrics “Hospital food getting you down?”), some hospitals are beginning to provide better offerings.

Plow to Plate is one initiative that’s helping connect hospitals with local, organic food. The organization works with New Milford Hospital in Connecticut, which has embraced a new philosophy recognizing the value of better-tasting, more nutritious food. Whenever possible, ingredients come from local farms that provide organic, seasonal produce. Most of the food is cooked from scratch. Now the hospital’s food is so well-respected that people in the community often come to eat there voluntarily.

Healthy Food in Health Care works with hospitals across the country to improve the sustainability of their food services. The organization provides tools, like case studies of other successful institutions, and worksheets to track progress. Like Plow to Plate, they support local, organic food. Ultimately, their goal is to promote a healthier food system, and the organization believes that hospitals are a good place to start — both because of their purchasing power and because of their status as health experts.

Sustainable hospital food programs are growing throughout the country. Healthy Food in Health Care publishes a yearly report on progress at hospitals that they work with in the U.S. Their 2011 report includes 89 facilities, and the majority had taken serious steps towards sustainability: 82 percent hosted a farmers’ market, farm stand or CSA on-site; 74 percent serve fresh, local farm produce when available; and 80 percent purchased sustainable dairy products.

Photo credit: Geoff Peters 604/Flickr