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Nutrition program delivers healthy food to Legacy hospital patients after discharge

Nutritionists at Legacy Salmon Creek are fighting malnutrition by delivering a month of good eating after patients go home from the hospital.

VANCOUVER, Wash. — Inside Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center just north of Vancouver, something special is cooking, for a relatively new program to fight malnutrition. 

Executive Chef Brian Seto showed off some of the high protein balanced meals they are putting together for discharged patients. From almond-crusted chicken to a variety of other dishes, meals are delivered to patients at home at no cost to them, for a full month after discharge. 

"We want to make sure they have a regular meal protein intake for an extended period. I think it’s cutting edge," said Seto.

Food nutrition manager Gerry Howick developed the pilot program in conjunction with Seto. She says malnutrition is a common problem with hospital patients across the country, with 20%-50% being malnourished. It's a problem that usually takes longer than a hospital stay to solve.

"The typical type of malnutrition we see, it’s because someone has a chronic illness and because of that it affects their appetite," said Howick. "So we thought this would be a good way to help patients understand the best foods they can eat to help them heal from malnutrition and also get rid of all the barriers they experience, so we just provide these meals ready to go."  

The meals are delivered every week by hospital volunteers.

"It’s great, it’s an outreach to the community and you get to see people more than one time," said Ken Jessup. "And it’s fun to see them respond to the food and they get stronger and healthier."

Legacy nutrition specialists see the progress too, at their end of the month in-home checkups with discharged patients like Ava Nodell.  

Nodell received a month of meals and nutrition education. Nodell was very sick when she was hospitalized in November, and unable to eat for a week and a half.  The nutrition she continued to get after coming home, was potentially a lifesaver.

"It made a big difference for me. When I started eating the food and that, it took me a couple of days but I had a lot more energy, plus I’ve gained weight," said Nodell.  "I’m really sad because they don’t bring it anymore. Because it really helped me a lot."

That's exactly why Howick hopes Legacy's program can expand and offer more healthy meals to malnourished patients.

The results so far are very good and rewarding.

"Definitely when I get to speak with the patients and they tell us their stories about how it’s helped them I mean sometimes it brings us to tears it’s so amazing," said Howick.