Allina Health announced today that it will no longer offer sugar sweetened beverages and deep-fried foods in its hospital cafeterias, vending machines, cafes and other food-service areas effective January 1, 2016. Allina Health operates 13 hospitals and over 90 clinics in Minnesota and Western Wisconsin including Abbott Northwestern, Mercy, United and Unity hospitals in the Twin Cities metro area.
Consistent with this decision, Abbott Northwestern Hospital has notified McDonald's that it will terminate the lease agreement between McDonald's and the hospital. The McDonald's currently located inside Abbott Northwestern will close by May 31, 2016.
"As an organization focused on health, it is our responsibility to model and encourage healthy choices," said Penny Wheeler, MD, President and CEO of Allina Health. "By removing sugar-sweetened beverages and deep-fried foods from our facilities, and providing more healthy options, we are helping to make the healthier choice the easier choice for our employees and the communities we serve."
Sugar-sweetened beverages are the leading source of added sugar in many people's diets. Consuming too much sugar has been shown to increase the risk for obesity, diabetes, heart disease and some cancers. Deep-fried foods have little nutritional value and are usually high in the types of fat that are bad for health.
These changes are part of an initiative at Allina Health called "Choose Healthy." In addition to the removal of deep-fried foods and beverages that are pre-sweetened with added sugars or other caloric sweeteners, the program will include new, healthier cafeteria and food service options as well as enhanced labeling to insure nutrition information is clear. More information is available at allinahealth.org/choosehealthy.
"I applaud Allina Health's decision to provide a healthier environment for its patients and employees," said Minnesota Commissioner of Health Dr. Ed Ehlinger. "Deep-fried foods and sugar-sweetened drinks have little nutritional value, 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."
Changes at individual Allina Health sites will vary based on what has been offered to-date. Many cafeteria menus are being refreshed as part of eliminating fried food options. A few Allina Health hospitals had already eliminated sugar-sweetened beverages and/or deep-fat fryers in the past.