Promoting health eating has hit Waikato Hospital’s bottom line as greasy food and sugary drinks are pulled from its menu.
In June, the Waikato DHB adopted the national healthy food and drink policy.
The policy requires DHBs to act as role models for their communities by promoting healthy food and drink choices.
Health boards have two years to implement the policy. Sugary drinks and deep fried food are no longer sold at Waikato Hospital’s Upper Deck Cafe and its four food outlets.
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Waikato DHB director of business support Melinda Ch’ng said transactions at the hospital’s eateries were down 17.5 per cent in the 12 months to February due to the new healthy food policy.
However, the downturn was predicted and the overall impact on the health board’s budgets wasn’t major, Ch’ng said.
“Less items are being sold but they tend to be the lower value items such as confectionery. People are now choosing to buy food that have a higher nutritional value and which may cost a bit more. Unhealthy food is no longer considered good value for money.”
Ch’ng was unable to say how much revenue the hospital had lost by promoting health eating.
“It’s not significant. We can’t use health dollars to subsidise our cafe but we also benchmark our prices and our intention is not to be a price leader. We accept we’ve got a captive audience with a lot of staff working after hours. We need to recover our costs and be sustainable but not focus on profit-making.”
The hospital cafe still sold baked goods, such as scones and cakes, but the portion sizes had been reduced.
Board member Martin Gallagher supported DHBs promoting healthy eating options, even if it came at the expense of “so-called bottom lines”.
Eliminating junk food from hospital cafes was motivated by a desire to help people live longer, Gallagher said.
Schools should also play a role in promoting healthy eating, he said.
“Good nutrition in terms of healthy eating is a major population health issue because if we’re not careful we will potentially have a generation whose lives are shorter than their parents.”
Manish Patel has owned the Selwyn Street Dairy and Gift Shop, opposite Waikato Hospital, for almost 11 years.
Sales of confectionery hadn’t increased since the hospital adopted its healthy food policy, Patel said.
Sandwiches and filled rolls were increasingly popular sale items.
“If anything, we’ve sold less sugary stuff in the last year,” Patel said.
“People seem to want to eat healthy. We make our sandwiches and rolls fresh each day and they sell out.”
Priyank Mistry, manager of RJ’s Superette & Lotto, on Ohaupo Road, said pies were still a big seller, with punters buying 30 to 40 pies a day.
Many customers looked to avoid buying food with excessive sugar but price was a key consideration in what people purchased.
“At the end of the day, a lot of people want a good deal and will buy cheaper food options.”
Ch’ng said the hospital was working on increasing its food range and had helped redesign some popular food options, such as pies.
“We had talks with our pie provider, Oxford Pies, to create a new pie. It’s a deeper pie with less pastry and more lean meat.”