Focus on HHI Enrollee: Michael Atanasio, Manager, Food & Nutrition, Overlook Medical Center, Summit, New Jersey

Enrolled in Engaged Leadership, Leaner Energy, Less Waste and Healthier Food

HHI’s Janet Brown had a virtual sit down with HHI enrolled facility contact, Michael Atanasio, Manager, Food and Nutrition for Overlook Medical Center, about the work, the bees and the new mission statement! Michael shared a flavor of activities underway at Overlook.

“I am fortunate in that our President and CEO, Alan Lieber, is firmly committed to healthier environments.  I have worked here for six years and the environmental sustainability work that we do is connected to wellness and furthering the health of our communities.  Our hospital has recently changed its Vision to reflect our commitment to wellness and disease prevention.”

Old  Vision “To demonstrate quality performance comparable to the nation’s best healthcare systems.”

New Vision “Empowering our communities to be the healthiest in the nation”.

“There is a lot of misinformation out there, so I use the Healthier Hospitals Initiative as an opportunity for education and information around nutrition, around health and around healthier choices.  For example, as part of the HHI Balanced Menu Challenge to reduce meat procurement and consumption, we have instituted Meatless Mondays.  There is a misconception that a vegetarian entrée will lack flavor, protein or enough calories to sustain someone throughout the day.   I take that as a challenge – Come on out and try it!  We have lots of room for creativity and you will feel satisfied!  The initiative is helping us with data tracking around environmental initiatives and because of the Engaged Leadership Challenge, we are putting together a green team to make our program more formalized and better coordinated.”

“We recently worked with a group of four year olds.  They came through with a nutritional activity. We shared a presentation on our beehives; they toured the kitchen and went into our garden.  They picked tomatoes, peppers and herbs and our chef talked with them and prepared a whole wheat pasta pomodoro dish for them to enjoy.  The sooner we educate, the longer it will stick.  This is something we can do in our department to make a difference in the health of our communities.”

“We have four bee hives.  We received a call from a company called Bee Bold.  They partner with companies to take on the honey bee crisis and positively impact the environment.  I didn’t know too much about bees but they came to our hospital and we talked, they shared some bee facts, we tried it out and found it in line with our other sustainability and wellness initiatives.  Thanks to the support of our president, we worked through some obstacles and here we are.  We are going to be putting in a live feed so the kids can check on the bees from their classroom.   Our hospital did a story on the bees on our intranet site and I heard from an employee who makes her own lip balm from natural ingredients.   As a result, she now makes face cream, lip balm, solid hand lotion and a natural vapor rub from the bees’ wax and we sell it from our gift shop.  We can’t even keep up with the demand.

We were devastated by hurricane Sandy and we have a “tri gen” power plant – we have our own power supply.  So when Sandy hit, we were the only one with power in our community.  Even the gas station used our grid to be able to give gas to clinicians and other staffers so they could continue to work.  We were seen as a beacon in the community.  We were still up and running.”