Eliminating Sugar Sweetened Beverages at Huron Valley Sinai Hospital, Commerce, Michigan


In the two months after transitioning to healthier beverages, sugar sweetened beverage sales have declined by $6,930.36 and healthier beverage sales have increased by $7,928.49. The total beverage sales increased by $998.13. Based on a 20 oz. bottle of Coke as an “average” container, the facility has removed 1,038.71 pounds of sugar from the cafeteria in the last two months.

The Problem

With the concern over obesity and chronic health conditions, hospitals are increasingly recognizing their responsibility to model healthier behavior for patients, staff and their community. Huron Valley Sinai Hospital wanted to model healthier behavior through the complete elimination of sugar sweetened beverages through engagement with the Healthier Hospitals Initiative.

Addressing the Problem

Huron Valley Sinai Hospital was enrolled in the Healthier Hospitals Initiative. While the Healthier Food Challenge called for a 20 percent reduction of sugar sweetened beverages per year, they decided to completely eliminate the sale of sugar sweetened beverages altogether. The cafeteria, vending and staff meetings are all now sugar sweetened beverage free.

Implementation Process

What is a Healthy Beverage at Huron Valley Sinai Hospital?

  • Vitality Fruit flavored water on tap. This machine replaced the old pop fountain in the café.
  • La Croix fruit flavored sparkling water
  • La Vita Coconut Water
  • Seagrams fruit flavored sparkling water
  • Fiji Water
  • Izzi Seltzer
  • Everfresh Juice
  • Honest Tea

The initiative started out with education, using the “stoplight” model of Red, Yellow and Green to highlight healthiest, less healthy and poorest choices for beverage selection in the cafeteria. A table top display and staff education in the cafeteria was a helpful way to educate patrons of the beverage choices well before the sugar sweetened beverages were completely eliminated.

Under the leadership of Scott Meyers, Director of Food & Nutrition Services, the team worked with their contracted food services’ provider Morisson to modify contracts to transition away from sugar sweetened beverages altogether and towards healthier beverage options, without increasing costs. They identified the baseline of percentage of red, yellow and green beverages and their associated costs and continued to track costs as they transitioned to healthier beverage choices.

The community was given a heads-up to what was coming down the pike so they could understand why the changes were being made and how they could take steps towards healthier choices. The elimination of beverages impacted most staff and while it required a behavior change, staff reported feeling better with their healthier choices.

Challenges and Lessons Learned

There was initial resistance to the elimination of sugar sweetened beverages. Some long time staff wrote letters of concern over their basic rights being taken from them. The leadership felt confident that they were doing the right thing and explained the rationale and that staff could continue to bring snacks to work, but as a health care leader, the facility could no longer support selling beverages that were linked to negative health. Over time staff became used to the change and this step is in line with an overall commitment to healthier environments and the leading role that Huron Valley Sinai Hospital plays.

Demographic information

The Detroit Medical Center has 9 hospitals and institutes. The Huron Valley is one of two in the Oakland County, suburbs of Detroit. The Huron Valley Hospital signed onto the Healthier Food Challenge and engaged leadership challenge. Detroit Medical Center joined the Vanguard Health System in 2012.
Read Lynn’s blogpost: Huron Valley-Sinai Hospital Launches No Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Initiative

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