N.S. health authority wants only nutritious snacks at its Tim Hortons hospital outlets May 2011

Tim Hortons outlets at Halifax-area hospitals will no longer be serving doughnuts. - Tim Hortons outlets at Halifax-area hospitals will no longer be serving doughnuts. | Chris Young/The Canadian Press

N.S. health authority wants only nutritious snacks at its Tim Hortons hospital outlets

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Bye-bye Boston cream doughnuts. Farewell apple fritters.

Nova Scotia’s largest health authority says it is the first in Canada to ask Tim Hortons outlets at its hospitals to sell only fare that meets its nutritional guidelines.

By October, says Capital Health, only low-fat muffins, bagels and tea biscuits will remain on the menus of the four Timmies it operates at the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre in Halifax. Discussions with a fifth, independently owned Tim Hortons outlet are ongoing.



The move is the latest instance of a Canadian hospital trying to make its food selection more congruent with its medical mission. Earlier this spring, the Burger King outlet at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children closed after Canada’s largest pediatric hospital chose not to renew its lease.

“We’re trying to walk the talk,” Amanda Whitewood, a Capital Health vice-president, said of the Nova Scotia initiative.

She acknowledged that a fat-filled, calorie-packed treat could be seen as a source of solace in a place full of ailing people. “We certainly understand the comfort relationship with food. … There are many offerings here, hot oatmeal, warm breakfast, things of that nature that will, we hope, satisfy those very real emotive needs,” she said.

Capital Health was one of the first hospital authorities to allow Tim Hortons into its institutions, in 1993. Since then, budget-squeezed Canadian hospitals have sought additional revenue streams by either leasing space or opening franchises from such chains as Starbucks, Subway or Pizza Pizza.

That symbiotic relationship took on a new twist last March when patients from an overflowing ER at Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster, B.C., were relocated at the Tim Hortons next door.

The proliferation of food franchises has led to a backlash, however.

In a 2008 article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, two physicians, Yoni Freedhoff and Rob Stevenson, argued that offering better food is an ethical obligation similar to banning smoking on hospital grounds. Hospitals, they wrote, have to “put an end to deep-fried hypocrisy.”

Half of Canadian hospitals with pediatric residency programs have franchises that serve “food of suboptimal nutritional value,” says a 2006 survey published in the Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine journal.

“Children’s hospitals provide suboptimal health environments. Reliance on revenue may be an important motivating factor encouraging the adoption of outlets that serve less nutritious food,” the survey concluded.

Ms. Whitewood said Capital Health is hoping the financial impact will be limited since 73 per cent of the sales at its Tim Hortons come from beverages rather than baked goods (the outlets don’t offer a full menu).

A spokeswoman for Tim Hortons didn’t answer a request for comment.

  "   This represents a wonderful shift in thinking "

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