A new year can be an invitation for a fresh start or a time to recommit yourself to a healthy lifestyle. Emory Healthcare — and Emory University Hospital’s Asbury Café — are here to support your journey.
In January 2024 the Food & Nutrition team at Emory University Hospital is putting a spotlight on healthful plant-based meals and launching a pilot at Asbury Café (located on the ground floor of the main hospital beside the G and H elevators). They’re calling it the “Plant-Powered Menu”. The rotating options will include:
- Southwest Bean Burgers with Guacamole and Salsa
- General Tso’s Tofu
- Mushroom Bourguignon with Celery Root Mash
- Jackfruit Tacos, pineapple salsa, and cashew crema
- Plant-Based Chorizo Nachos Supreme
- Eggplant Meatballs and Spaghetti
- And other flavorful offerings!
Emory University Hospital’s Assistant Director of Culinary Services Mike Bacha and Executive Chef Brad Mess have been refining recipes based on hospital “classics” while also being inspired by recent trends and local partners.
“I am truly excited to have the ability to introduce people to more plant-based options in our cafes,” Bacha says. “It should also be a lot of fun for our culinary team to explore new dishes!”
Building On Past Success
While reflecting on the success of the Plant-Based Harvest Feast—a Thanksgiving themed event from recent years—and cooking demos her team hosts, Kip Hardy, RDN, project manager for the Food and Nutrition team, shares “It feels good to build on the previous work by putting an emphasis on unique varieties of vegetables, beans, and grains”.
Hardy and Bacha also helped coordinate the Forward Food Symposium at Emory in 2019, bringing together academic and health care partners from all over the Southeast for a day of education and training focused on expanding plant-forward menu offerings.
The primary motivation for focusing on minimally processed plant-based foods is health. “Plant-based diets are known to promote health and healing,” says Jennifer K. Gustafson, MD, assistant professor of general gynecology and obstetrics at Emory University School of Medicine. “With these new options, Emory hospitals are showcasing that ‘food as medicine’ can also be delicious!”
The founder of Emory Healthy Kitchen Collaborative, Sharon H. Bergquist, MD, an internal medicine physician at Emory Healthcare, agrees.
“Plant-based eating has consistently been shown to be the most effective dietary pattern for preventing and slowing progression of the most common chronic diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s,” says Bergquist. “Offering delicious and healthy options is a wonderful way of supporting employee, patient, and student health.”
In addition to evidence-based benefits of plant-forward nutrition, the pilot is also motivated by employee feedback.
“Offering vegetarian and vegan options in our hospital responds to a real need voiced by people in our division,” shares Anna Von, MD, assistant professor of medicine at Emory University School of Medicine. She further expands on the inclusivity factor: “Not only does this initiative increase healthy options for all of us, it also helps to include everyone in our community!”
The plant-powered menu pilot will run January 22 through February 16, 2024, after which the team will take time to reflect on customer feedback and the overall success of the pilot with hopes of continuing it, scaling it to other locations and maybe even expanding it to patient menus.
“I’m thrilled about this project,“ says Krystyna R. Morgan, MPH, director of Emory’s Woodruff Health Sciences Center Office of Well-Being. “Offering clearly labeled and delicious plant-forward vegan options aligns with Emory’s commitment to inclusivity, sustainability, and creating an environment where healthy choice can be an easy choice. I hope this pilot is here to stay and is another step forward as we continue to transform our food offerings to support the healing journey of our patients and teams.”
“Healthier eating sounds challenging to some of us that are not as familiar with unique ingredients,” admits Catherine Maloney, FACHE, chief operating officer at Emory University Hospital. “Emory Healthcare’s efforts to expose our staff, patients and visitors to plant-based food items are critical for helping break down barriers to ‘How do I start?’ I greatly appreciate the initiative to change my perceptions of trying new and different food that can enhance my own personal health.”
Learn More and Partake
Come try the food for yourself! Asbury Café is located at 1364 Clifton Rd NE, Atlanta, GA 30322, on the ground floor of the main hospital (beside the G and H elevators) and will be serving these menu options at lunch (11:00 am – 2:30 pm) and dinner (4:00 pm – 8:00 pm) Monday through Friday. Learn more about the menu and recipes and read up on the benefits of plant-based nutrition. We invite feedback from those who try the featured plant-based menu options for a chance to win weekly prizes during the time of the pilot.