New York State hospitals must now make a healthy plant-based option available to patients at every meal. The new rule went into effect this week, following a landmark bill that was signed into law last year.
Bill S1471A/A4072, introduced by Senator Brad Hoylman and Assembly Member Richard Gottfried, requires hospitals in New York to offer plant-based meals and snacks containing no animal products or by-products that are nutritionally equivalent to other menu items. The bill also requires hospitals to list the plant-based options on all written materials and menus.
“This law gives physicians a teachable moment to discuss with patients the power of a plant-based meal to help prevent and reverse conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and obesity,” Susan Levin, M.S., R.D., director of nutrition education for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, said in a statement.
The Physicians Committee, which supported the bill, is a member of a nonprofit coalition that offers support, resources, and hands-on trainings to help hospital culinary teams provide more plant-based meals.
The nearly 1.7 million New Yorkers who have diabetes and heart disease account for 40% of all deaths in New York State, according to the New York State Department of Health. In New York State, the leading COVID-19 comorbidities are high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol. Research shows that a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, grains, and beans can help fight heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, and cancer.
The American Medical Association has passed a Healthy Food Options in Hospitals resolution that calls on hospitals in the United States to improve the health of patients, staff, and visitors by providing plant-based meals. The American College of Cardiology made the same recommendation in Planting a Seed: Heart-Healthy Food Recommendations for Hospitals.
Last year, the D.C. Council introduced the Healthy Hospitals Amendment Act of 2019, a bill that would require hospitals in Washington, D.C., to improve the nutritional quality of their menus by eliminating processed meat such as bacon and hot dogs and making plant-based options available. California passed similar legislation in 2018, which the Physicians Committee co-sponsored along with Social Compassion In Legislation.
The Physicians Committee’s Healthy Hospital Food web page provides quantity plant-based recipes, tips for implementing plant-based meals, and case studies of hospitals offering healthy food.