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“Let Food Be Thy Medicine…”

So here’s my impression of what a hospital is for: It’s a place where sick or injured people go to get better. Clearly some of that may mean having tests, an operation or other surgical procedure. Sometimes it’s simply a case of administering medicines and keeping the patient in for observation and recuperation.

But in any case an essential element of enabling a sick person to get well is supplying them with the highest quality nutrition, so the body has all the building blocks with which to recover and restore good health.

The ancient Greek scholar Hippocrates is quoted as saying, “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine thy food.” Interestingly enough he’s also the same fellow to whom the Hippocratic Oath is attributed, and to which physicians the world over swear to “apply dietetic measures for the benefit of the sick, and do no harm to any human being.” (Did you notice the word “dietetic” in there…?)

So you would think that in a hospital full of doctors, they could somehow connect those two dots.

Yet in a case reported to me by a client, it seems this has not occurred. Her young daughter, having contracted a particularly nasty strain of stomach bug whilst in the South of France, was hospitalised for several days whilst staff conducted various tests, diagnosed and then treated her condition. Our client remained on the premises to be with her daughter, but sent me an urgent text saying there was nothing healthy available to eat.

“Are you serious?” I replied. “In a children’s hospital?”

“Exactly” came back the response, “See for yourself…”, and she sent me the photo you see below.

prison food in childrens hospital

For nearly 3 days they supplied her with nothing but stale bread and a bowl of water at meal times.

(Mind you, having said that, this was possibly because she had already turned down the soggy fries, mystery nuggets, crisps, soft-drinks, ice-cream and candy bars that made up the other meal-time options.)

There was a time in our dim, dark past that a diet of stale bread and water was the fare reputedly served to prisoners after a day of hard labour on the chain gangs. However I understand that this is less commonly the case in these enlightened times, and those incarcerated behind bars may now enjoy a diet that is a culinary feast by comparison!

To serve such nutritionally depleted foods in any establishment (including schools, by the way) would be considered archaic and poor stewardship of the interns – whomsoever they may be – but to fail to provide nutritionally adequate meals in a children’s hospital, of all places, is downright criminal.

So, what are YOU giving your children for dinner tonight?

– By Tim Bean