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Faces of the Network: Maureen Husek

Maureen Husek speaks at the 2016 Food, Farms and Health Conference in Traverse City, Michigan

As director of Nutrition and Retail Service for Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak, Maureen Husek’s responsibility does not officially extend beyond hospital walls. Yet, she is inspired to use her influence and institutional buying power - fueled by 1,082 licensed beds, 60,558 admissions, 128,528 Emergency Center visits and 8,704 employees in 2015 - to champion Michigan’s food economy and encourage fellow health care leaders to do the same.

For this reason, Maureen was recently honored by the Michigan Health and Hospital Association with the 2016 MHA MI Green Healthcare Hometown Hero Award.  The MHA Michigan Green Healthcare Committee (MGHC), works to establish a framework for Michigan’s healthcare sector to improve the health and well-being of the state’s ecology and its citizens. The Michigan Green Healthcare Awards were established in 2014 to recognize organizations and individuals who have had a significant impact on sustainability within the healthcare sector. The hometown hero award is given to a person who demonstrates a vision and passion at a group, department or personal level and inspires others to make a difference.

From leading the transition to reduced meat portions and increased healthy beverage options, both by 20 percent, to replacing the cafeteria deep fryer with a char griller, to establishing volunteer-staffed teaching and patient therapy gardens, Husek is guided by her vision to empower patients and employees with healthy, sustainable food options.

Hillary Bisnett, national procurement director of Health Care Without Harm’s Healthy Food in Health Care Program, first witnessed Husek’s energy and commitment at Blake’s Orchard in Armada in 2014 as part of a Michigan Farm to Institution Network call-to-action event.  Husek was selected to serve on the Michigan Farm to Institution Network’s, 12-member advisory committee as its health care representative, a committee for which Maureen remains a key member. “We were all challenged to find new ways to bridge the gap between Michigan farms and institutions,” Bisnett said. “Maureen was the one who made it happen. She said, ‘I can do something about this,’ and she bought 80 bushels of apples that day to give away at the hospital in celebration of Food Day.”

Patients, families and employees continue to celebrate Food Day on October 24 each year with a juicy, Michigan apple as part of the “Michigan Apple Crunch” initiative. Husek has lead the hospital to new heights in pursuit of the goal to purchase 20 percent of food locally by 2020, a goal set forth by the Michigan Health & Hospital Association, The Michigan Good Food Charter and the national Healthier Hospital Healthy Food Challenge.

“Maureen works diligently to overcome any barriers institutions may face in buying local, including seasonality, cost and volume,” said Eileen Miskiewicz, nutrition services and farmers market manager, Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak. “She sought out a processor who freezes blueberries and worked with our distributer to partner with this processor, making Michigan berries available to us and others year-round.” In 2016, for the first time in the hospital’s history, all blueberries, which are purchased year-round, found their start in Michigan soil. 

According to Colleen Matts, farm to institution specialist at the Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems, Husek has “a clear vision for her health system regarding how to get local, sustainable food through traditional channels.” Maureen has used her significant buying power to insist that her broadline distributor take action to improve their selection of Michigan foods and increase their transparency. These efforts are helping make it easier for all customers of the same distributor to find Michigan foods. Husek also asked the distributor to provide farmer profiles detailing product origins for presentation at the point of sale. “This advance contributes to the transparency of our food system, gives buyers a choice and enables them to track their progress towards buying local,” Matts said. 

As a leader in sustainable food buying, Husek shares her vision to encourage other health care leaders to embrace her philosophy. Husek’s 2016 schedule included an appearance at the Farms, Food & Health Conference in Traverse City Jan. 29. In May, Husek traveled to Dallas, Texas where she shared best practices on sustainability purchasing at CleanMed2016.

In 2017, Beaumont Hospital - Royal Oak  will celebrate the 10th anniversary year of its on-site farmers market, which features 30 local vendors, on Thursdays, June through September.

  Husek’s accomplishments do not end there. Just last year, Maureen also:

  • Introduced the Mediterranean Diet at the Beaumont, Royal Oak cafeteria for National Nutrition Month, including entrée and salad bar items and educational materials throughout the month, as inspired by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s new 2015 dietary guidelines.
  • Established a permanent Mediterranean salad bar for both breakfast and lunch/dinner.
  • Offered eight successful lunch-and-learn vegetable gardening sessions for employees.
  • Added low-fat, low-sodium and fat-free salad dressing selections, including cherry and blueberry pomegranate vinaigrettes.
  • Added vegan choices to patient menus and room service.
  • Began developing Beaumont’s own fat-free, low-sodium Tuscan Italian dressing brand.
  • Launched a collaborative screening program to determine patients’ food access needs after discharge.
  • Participating in Oakland County’s Community Health Improvement plan, which aims to increase access to healthy, local food and promote active living.

“Maureen is motivated to provide Beaumont patients and employees with higher quality, nutrient-dense food, picked yesterday in Michigan, as opposed to two weeks ago in California,” said Christine Quane, wholesale market coordinator at Eastern Market Corporation. “She doesn’t do this because it’s her job.  She does it because it’s the right thing to do.”