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NYC Health + Hospitals Celebrates 1.2 Million Plant-Based Meals Served

The health system launched its plant-based meals program in March 2022

Scientific research has shown that plant-based eating patterns are linked to significantly lower risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and certain cancers

In addition to the considerable health benefits for patients, the plant-based meals served in 2023 led to a reduction in carbon emissions of 36% and a cost savings of 59 cents per meal

Mar 14, 2024

NYC Health + Hospitals President and CEO Dr. Mitchell Katz and Sodexo CEO Sophie Bellon celebrate the two-year anniversary of plant-based meals at the health system

NYC Health + Hospitals in partnership with Sodexo today celebrated over 1.2 million plant-based meals served since the program began in March 2022. In 2023, the first full calendar year of the program, NYC Health + Hospitals served over 783,000 plant-based meals to its patients. Scientific research has shown that plant-based eating patterns are linked to significantly lower risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and certain cancers. They can also be effective for weight management as well as treatment of hypertension and hyperlipidemia. In addition to the considerable health benefits for patients, the plant-based meals served in 2023 led to a reduction in carbon emissions of 36% and a cost savings of 59 cents per meal. Patients who ate plant-based meals at NYC Health + Hospitals reported a satisfaction rate over 90%.

All meals are made from scratch at the health system’s Culinary Center in Brooklyn. The culinary team includes Food Service Associates at each hospital who take the patient’s food order, educate them about the flavor and nutrition of the day’s plant-based options, and gather patient feedback about the meal. New recipes are piloted as a “Chef’s Recommendation” and only enter the menu rotation if they achieve an 80% patient satisfaction rate or above. Patients who are discharged from the hospital receive a booklet of plant-based recipes to make at home. Photos from the Culinary Center are available here.

Food Services Associates Amanda Feliciano and Genesis Sampayo, who serve meals to patients at NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst and South Brooklyn Health, and Corporate Chef Phil Demaiolo

“In all places where New Yorkers receive meals, especially in hospital settings where patients are healing, it is important that the food we serve is healthful and delicious,” said Mayor’s Office of Food Policy Executive Director Kate MacKenzie. “We are proud of NYC Health + Hospitals for taking on the challenge of creatively developing delicious and culturally relevant plant-forward dishes. The uptake of these defaults is proof of their popularity and it is fantastic to be able to share just a few examples of what is on offer today to inpatients in all eleven of our hospitals.” 

“Many of the conditions that bring our patients to the hospital – like cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes – can be improved with plant-based eating, so it only makes sense that as a hospital system, we serve plant-based meals to our patients,” said NYC Health + Hospitals President and CEO Mitchell Katz, MD. “Nutritious, tasty food is another way we care for our patients. Our plant-based menu reflects our patients’ cultural diversity so they can experience familiar dishes to make their hospital stay more comfortable.”

“Serving over one million plant-based meals to our patients is another important milestone in our journey to promote high quality, culturally appropriate, healthy, nutritious, and tasty food,” said Mercedes Redwood, MS, RD, Assistant Vice President of Management Services at NYC Health + Hospitals. “This is one of our most visible efforts to help patients transform their eating habits to enhance their health status. It is also important to highlight our Food Service Associates who are providing continuous engagement with our patients demonstrates our ICARE values with every patient interaction and are critical in the increase of plant-based choices. This continues to be a team achievement, and I thank everyone, especially Sodexo, our contract partner, for their engagement and continuous support.”

“70% of Sodexo’s U.S. supply carbon footprint was related to animal-based food purchases in fiscal year 2020. Increasing the number of plant-based and plant-focused options on our menus is part of our plan to reduce the company’s carbon footprint by 34% by 2025,” explained Molly Matthews, CEO Healthcare & Seniors for Sodexo U.S. “In Healthcare we started this journey with our partnership at NYC Health + Hospitals, and it continues to be our flagship for how plant-based eating can help patients and the planet while enhancing satisfaction and taste.”

“As a Registered Dietitian, I am so proud to be able to provide the NYC Health + Hospitals patients and community with the most healthful and delicious meals while in their most vulnerable state,” said Sodexo Vice President of Operations at NYC Health + Hospitals Samantha Morgenstern, MS, RD, CDN. “I hope our teams continue to inspire other health systems nationally and internationally to innovate the overall patient experience and push the needle in what can be achieved.”

“This has been one of the most rewarding challenges in my career,” said Sodexo Corporate Chef at NYC Health + Hospitals Philip DeMaiolo, CEC, AAC. “To be the creative partner behind this food project and serve those in the largest municipal healthcare system in the states is a large task. Knowing our patients’ acceptance of what we have achieved is the catalyst to continue this journey and support NYC and Mayor Adams.”

Preparing Jerk Mushrooms, Collared Greens, and Sweet Plantains, a new dish coming to the menu for NYC Health + Hospitals patients

Plant-based nutrition is a style of cooking and eating that emphasizes, but is not necessarily limited to, fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, plant oils, herbs and spices, and reflects evidence-based principles of health and sustainability.

Below are all the plant-based foods that are featured in the NYC Health + Hospitals dinner menu for inpatients. Non-plant-based options will continue to be available at the patient’s request and in accordance with their prescribed diet. ​

Kabocha Squash Curry & Lima Bean Dill Rice, with a Caribbean curry sauce featuring coconut milk, apple, banana, kabocha squash, and red pearl onions, one of the plant-based dishes served to patients at NYC Health + Hospitals
  • Black Bean Burger
  • Black-Eyed Pea Casserole
  • Curried Kabocha Squash
  • Garden Bolognese
  • Jackfruit and Lentil Jambalaya
  • Jackfruit Carnitas with White Rice and Jicama Slaw
  • Mexican Lasagna (Chilaquiles)
  • Mushroom Stroganoff
  • Orange Cauliflower with Edamame
  • Penne Pasta with Pea Pesto
  • Pigeon Peas and Pumpkin Stew (Gandules y Calabaza)
  • Red Curry Vegetables with Roasted Tofu
  • Rigatoni Pasta al Forno with Dairy-Free Cheese
  • Roasted Moroccan Vegetables
  • Root Vegetable Tagine
  • Sancocho
  • Sloppy Joe
  • Three Bean Chili
  • Vegetable Paella
  • Whole Wheat Sicilian Pizza with Dairy-Free Mozzarella Cheese

“NYC Health + Hospitals stands at the vanguard of food as medicine, demonstrating that plant-based defaults can optimize patient health and satisfaction while simultaneously achieving carbon reduction and budgetary goals,” said Katie Cantrell, Co-Founder and CEO of Greener by Default. “Greener by Default has seen a surge in interest from other healthcare institutions as a result of NYC Health + Hospitals’ groundbreaking program.”



MEDIA CONTACT: PressOffice@nychhc.org

About NYC Health + Hospitals
NYC Health + Hospitals is the largest municipal health care system in the nation serving more than a million New Yorkers annually in more than 70 patient care locations across the city’s five boroughs. A robust network of outpatient, neighborhood-based primary and specialty care centers anchors care coordination with the system’s trauma centers, nursing homes, post-acute care centers, home care agency, and MetroPlus health plan—all supported by 11 essential hospitals. Its diverse workforce of more than 43,000 employees is uniquely focused on empowering New Yorkers, without exception, to live the healthiest life possible. For more information, visit www.nychealthandhospitals.org and stay connected on FacebookTwitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.