WASHINGTON – Put the words hospital and food together and most of us cringe.
But a group of health care providers is trying to change all that, and that group is doing it for a very good cause.
The staff at Inova Health Services put together a cookbook that marries concerns about health, nutrition and the environment. All the proceeds are going to a program that matches SNAP benefits — usually referred to as food stamps — at local farmers markets.
“It is just a full circle. It walks the talk,” says Carolyn Billetdeaux, with Inova’s office of sustainability.
The book — called “Sustainable Foods, Healthy Lives” — focuses on local, seasonal produce and features recipes by Inova employees and affiliates.
The recipes are arranged by season with turnips in the winter to asparagus in the spring, blueberries in summer and apples in the fall.
Billetdeaux says the goal is to connect the produce at a farmers market or roadside stand with the meals on a family table. She says cooks can look up a whole host of ideas for preparing the fruits, vegetables and other fresh food items available in Virginia year-round.
She says people who buy local get foods that have not traveled long distances and contain more nutrients. They also are likely to taste better, making it easier to get even the pickiest eaters to try them.
While she says she is proud of the wide array of recipes in the book, she acknowledges it may take her a year to try them all. Billetdeaux admits the part of the project that makes her happiest is the fact all the proceeds are being plowed back into the community.
Copies are available through the Inova website and in select Inova gift shops and cafeterias.
Here is Billetdeaux’s favorite recipe from the cookbook. It’s for a fresh blueberry pie that Amy Ungar, an Inova Fairfax Hospital employee, made for her first date, a Fourth of July picnic, with her future husband. Decades later, she still makes it every Independence Day.