Vegan Hospital Food: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

A social media group invites people to share their experience - good and bad - of plant-based patient meals
Hospitals often get it wrong when it comes to vegan meals - with poor nutritional offerings, or non vegan ingredients

A Facebook group called Vegan Hospital Food Hits and Misses shares photos of meals vegans have been given in hospitals.

The group, which was launched in 2015, offers a solid resource for those interested in hospital catering.

Dr. Justine Butler is the Founder of the page, as well as a Researcher and Writer for leading animal protection charity Viva!.

Quality

Dr. Butler told Plant Based News that she is surprised by how poor most of the vegan meals served in hospitals are.

She added: "In 2018, our hospitals should be doing better. I would like to see a number of meal options available for vegans rather than the ubiquitous baked potato and beans, or spicy bean curry.

"I would like to see plant-based milks (soya, oat and almond), vegan margarine and wholemeal bread as standard, available to anyone without having to see a dietician or make a special arrangement."

Improving?

According to Dr. Butler, the food is changing, but 'much too slowly'. She said: "The photos people are sending in to Vegan Hospital Food – Hits and Misses - are still mostly pretty poor and some are downright shocking. All too often patients are given a plate with just one or two vegetables on it – it might be potatoes and carrots, or cauliflower and broccoli.

"One patient was given a baked potato for lunch and then another one for dinner. Another was expected to fill up on lettuce, cucumber, tomato and one slice of bread.

"These 'meals' look like part of a meal where something was forgotten, not a nutritious meal for someone who is ill or recovering in hospital."

A selection of vegan meals shared by patients (Photos: Vegan Hospital Food Hits and Misses)

Food and recovery

Good food is fundamental during illness and recovery, says Dr. Butler, which makes the lack of healthy, substantial options in so many facilities problematic, with many vegan patients having to rely on the goodwill of friends and family to make sure they get food while in hospital.

"Not everyone has people that can help – it must be very upsetting for those who have to go without, alone and hungry in hospital," she said. "One patient said they discharged themselves because they were left hungry for so long.

"It's not too much to ask that hospitals ensure the decent provision of vegan food for patients who don’t want to eat meat, fish, eggs and dairy foods."

Campaign

One of the organizations currently tackling the issue of plant-based food in hospitals is The Vegan Society, which is campaigning to increase and improve vegan options in public sector canteens, in an attempt to address the 'challenging situations' it often hears about from vegans.

According to the Society: "It's easy to produce tasty options that are rich in fibre and low in saturated fat, provide multiple servings of fruit and vegetables, and exclude processed meat, which the World Health Organization has classified as a cause of cancer.

"Veganism has been found to come within the scope of international human rights provisions and vegans in the UK are protected under human rights and equality law.

"Therefore vegans should already have the right to suitable, animal-free catering in public sector settings."

'High time'

Dr. Butler concludes that while she is 'very proud' of the NHS - and appreciates how lucky the UK it to have it, it is time for improvement.

She said: "Given the strong evidence that it is a poor diet that lands so many people in hospital, it's high time health authorities recognised their obligation to respect the dietary choice made by vegans, to exclude all animal products.

"A vegan menu would undoubtedly be popular with many of the non-vegan patients too I am certain – and might even do them some good."

You can find out more about Vegan Hospital Food Hits and Misses here

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are prepared in the author's capacity and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Plant Based News itself. 

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PBN Contributor:

Maria is the Editor of Plant Based News. A former magazine editor, newspaper reporter, and features writer, her work has been published by The Guardian, The Huffington Post, and various regional newspapers, as well as Vegan Life magazine and Vegan Trade Journal. She has interviewed a huge range of people, from Prime Ministers to authors, activists, pop stars and actors, and enjoys the varied range of topics writing for PBN allows her to tackle. You can follow her on Twitter @MariaChiorando and Instagram @mariachiorando.

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