Already, CAMC has reduced sodium levels by 40 percent and fat levels by 35 percent, said Mike Marrara, head of food and nutrition at CAMC. The hospital started by adding herbs, instead of salt, for flavoring.
"It's a lot of the comfort food people eat, just made healthier," Marrara said. "We're trying to change the way people think about healthy options and make them readily available."
The biggest challenge has been finding growers certified to sell to hospitals. The hospital may purchase produce only from USDA-GAP-certified growers.
Jean Smith, director of marketing and development for the Department of Agricultural, said the GAP-certification process ensures safe handling of produce.
The one-day course covers everything from potential water-source threats. like microbiological hazards. to how to handle and store produce. Smith said the program is relatively new to West Virginia.
"It's exactly what needs to happen," Smith said of the program. "This is just another way for the Department of Agriculture to ensure our food supply is safe."
The department uses farm-bill funds to reduce the course's cost for interested West Virginians.
Additionally, once growers are USDA-GAP certified, they would be able to sell their product outside West Virginia, creating new business opportunities.
"It's just the right thing for our local economy and our patients to try and get the most nutritious food as possible," Marrara said.
Reach Caitlin Cook at caitlin.c...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5113.