Hospital Food

After three full days of being hospitalized, I figured I would finally share my observations on the food here. Everyone knows hospital food is nothing to be excited about, and as someone who has been insisting on a diet of mostly organic, non-GMO foods, I would like to go into more detail.

I shared some photos to a friend, who works at Harvard Medical School and operates like a normal human in thinking that food is food. He witnesses doctors rush to McDonald’s for lunch and thinks innocently of the chicken tenders, fries, Pepsi, and chocolate “ice cream” served to patients. Comfort food, he reasons.

And I get that, to an extent. The last things (most) sick people want to hear are terms such as organic, non-GMO, whole grain, gluten free, vegan, low sodium, low sugar, etc. If nothing else goes right, they at least want the familiarity of cheeseburgers, pizza, hot dogs, grilled cheese, fried foods, mashed potatoes, sugar cookies, Dole fruit cups, and soda. At the same time, the permanent bad rap of hospital food lingers in our minds. A “nutritionist” stopped by today to ask about the food so far and any suggestions, and before I could even say anything, she just said, “Hospital food is what it is, right?”

I repeated so, and that was that. Could you imagine if I actually requested—God forbid—organic foods? But organic gets a bad rap, too. Most people, including me up till a couple months ago, don’t know that the most important aspect of organic food is the lack of cancer-linked chemical pesticides. Especially given my history, that is enough for me to choose organic. I also understand that organic foods unfortunately remain a privilege, as their higher costs make them unaffordable to many. The systems in place now make it financially unsound to force people (or hospitals) to switch to organic.

But have you heard the corruption news about the University of Maryland Medical System? The Baltimore mayor, who was on the UMMS Board of Directors and has now stepped down, sold her own children’s books to the hospitals for $500,000. (More than 8,000 copies of those, by the way, were found to be collecting dust in a warehouse). Other members who have also stepped down similarly have essentially paid themselves millions of dollars in contracts between the hospitals and their own businesses or connections to businesses. These self-dealing leaders have millions of dollars in excess…and I was served a single burnt pancake and sausage patty this morning. (If you’re wondering, I give the meals to my dad, who claims he likes the food, either honestly speaking or more likely to please me for no food wasted).

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It’s as bad as it looks.

If only that greedy desire were used to help make people healthier, rather than sicker, what a different world it would be. Instead, we have guilty, greedy, lying millionaires in power. It makes you wonder whether Rousseau or Hobbes was correct.

So these days, I have been relying on the graces of my mother and family friends to make palatable, better-for-you meals. As a daughter of Chinese immigrants, I am so lucky to have a mom that shops organic and understands my recent switch. I am also lucky that my dad appears to be so satisfied with the hospital food I order for him.

We received a light scolding today, because my mom has been going directly in the pantry to fetch and store perishables in the fridge, but the policy here requires that only staff can go inside to prevent contamination. It makes getting food an extra hassle.

Anyway, I am feeling good, despite a brief fever scare today. I have officially declined registration for the Fall 2019 semester, since I cannot obtain a health clearance before registration begins in April. But Georgetown made it easy to extend, having reached out to me first.

I don’t want to think about plans for the rest of the year, except for focusing on recovering and learning and growing.

Staying strong.