If the Medical Center were a city, we'd be a little larger than Grenada by population, which by Mississippi standards is not a small town. We know that as we strive for a healthier state, we need to build healthier communities, and for us that means starting right here at UMMC. I've discussed some healthy-living initiatives here before, and today I want to tell you about some healthy food initiatives we're working on.
Some people might ask, “why bother?” Well, I can give you 15 reasons. That's one for every pound of increase in body weight of the average American man or woman during the last 20 years. That's right, although the height of the average adult is unchanged in two decades, he or she is 15 pounds heavier, according to a report issued this week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If we didn't know it intuitively already, that statistic should set off alarm bells for us to pay more attention to our eating habits and include more physical activity in our daily lives. You can see an article about the CDC report here.
So what are we doing about this?
Our new food services vendor, Morrison's, is now on board. Please be patient as the company gradually makes some welcome and overdue changes toward our goal of better nutrition. As part of a company-wide commitment to wellness, Morrison's will be adding calorie information to displays and will only be using fresh or frozen produce - no cans. The company also has a five-foot rule of no junk food within five feet of the cash registers for those impulse purchases many of us make. Morrison's will gradually be introducing more freshly prepared vegetables, grilled entrees and - this week - a “Super Foods Table" featuring cups of nutrient-rich foods like fresh peaches or cherries. Of course, we will still keep some of our traditional favorites like John Wayne Casserole on the menu, but with the introduction of whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, and healthier entrees, our hope is that we as a community of employees, students and patients can make better food choices within the convenient confines of the cafeteria, the Wiser Bistro and the grill at the Student Union.
Another visible change is the addition of our new UMMC vending machines. They look wonderful, but we know it's what's on the inside of the vending machine that really counts. Although our food vending machines are still a work in progress, all of our beverage machines are now meeting or exceeding American Heart Association Healthy Vending Standards. More information about those standards can be found here.
The battle for a healthier Mississippi is not an easy one and we need to take action today to solve tomorrow's problems. As part of our education mission we are seeking to better educate our future health-care providers to take care of our state, and that includes learning about nutrition.
Last year the School of Medicine started a culinary medicine club, and every cooking class was full. The students learned about different diets and were able to ask a registered dietitian their nutrition questions. In addition to gaining an understanding of the services dietitians provide, students learned practical steps toward healthy eating to share with patients.
It's fun to see our students so eager to learn about healthy lifestyles. Here's a video if you want to see the students in action. By the way, to accommodate these classes, the Student Union is turned into a teaching kitchen, but there are plans to develop a community teaching kitchen in partnership with Soul City at the currently underused Farmer's Market location adjacent to the stadium.
And speaking of farmer's markets, did you know that you can buy fresh produce just a stone's throw - or a tomato toss - from campus? The produce stands at the West Street Farmer's Market are open until 6 p.m., so stop by on your way out and take some fresh fruits and vegetables home for dinner. They have a wonderful variety and plenty of parking. The “new” Farmer's Market on High Street is a great place to go on Saturday mornings to stock up for the week with fresh produce, meats and homemade items. For those of you who are in direct patient care and want to encourage our lower-income patients to eat healthy, be aware that EBT cards are accepted by many of the farmer's market vendors at both locations.
Finally, I want to acknowledge the efforts of those leading our campus wellness movement. Their hard work resulted in recognition of UMMC as a finalist in a statewide “Healthiest Workplace” competition. I congratulate them, and all of you, on this achievement, and I have no doubt we are on the right path to a more nutritionally-mindful UMMC and A Healthier Mississippi.
Note:Thanks to rising M2 Helen I. Turner, who is pursuing a Dean's Summer Observership, for her assistance with today's VC Notes.