Vermont hospital has the recipe for local, sustainable food

And a tasty asparagus dish, too

Fletcher Allen, a 562-bed hospital located in Burlington, Vermont is nationally known for its innovative food program and strong commitment to sustainable food. Which is one reason Hillary Bisnett, director of the Ecology Center’s Healthy Food in Health Care program Director, visited there earlier this month to see what she could learn.

“A key take-away was how important their entire food team, all of the employees involved from all levels, including Diane Imrie, director of nutrition services at the hospital, and executive chef RichaChef Richard Jarmuszrd Jarmusz was to making a comprehensive program possible,” Bisnett said. The hospital worked with more than 70 farmers and food producers throughout their region to serve more than two million meals last year.

Their main cafeteria for visitors and employees serves fresh, organic ingredients, locally raised beef, a line of chicken and turkey raised without non-therapeutic antibiotics, and many vegetarian choices. Foods are cooked to order, resulting in less food waste. The cafe also features a “free cooling” refrigeration system that uses outdoor cold air during the winter to provide the chilling required, the first of its kind in any Vermont hospital.

Chef Jarmusz, who received second-place honors in the national Health Care Without Harm’s 2013 Exemplary Food Service Award competition earlier this year, told Bisnett: “We source anywhere from 37 percent to 50 percent combined local and sustainable foods of our total food budget depending on what time of year it is.”

But the story doesn’t stop there. In the last several years, patients and visitors have been enjoying food grown on-site by members of Fletcher Allen’s nutrition services department. A healing garden and a rooftop garden provide fresh herbs and vegetables, and one of their nutrition workers became a beekeeper and last year they harvested nearly 300 pounds of honey.

“So there is a lot for Michigan hospitals to learn as they move forward with their Healthy Food in Health Care commitments in the coming years," Bisnett said.

In the meantime, she shares this recipe from a cookbook written by Imrie and Jarmusz, Cooking Close to Home: A year of seasonal recipes.

Prosciutto-wrapped asparagus with goat cheese and mushroom salad

Servings: 4 


  • 12 to 16 asparagus stalks, trimmed and peeled 
  • 4 slices prosciutto ham, sliced thin 
  • 1 1/2 cups baby greens 
  • 4 slices goat cheese, 1 ounce each 
  • Ground black pepper, to taste
  • 4 portions of mushroom salad (recipe to follow) 

Ingredients for Mushroom Salad

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup shiitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 ½ cups portabella mushrooms, sliced 
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons basil, chopped
  • ¼ cup Balsamic vinegar
  • Ground black pepper, to taste


  1. Fill a small saucepan halfway with water and bring to a boil. Add the asparagus and poach quickly, cooking about 3 minutes so that the asparagus are cooked al dente. 
  2. Remove from heat and submerge the asparagus into a bath of cold water and ice. Place on a towel and pat dry. 
  3. Place one slice of Prosciutto on a flat surface. Place 3 to 4 asparagus stalks on the outer edge of the ham, and roll the ham around the asparagus. Repeat with the other 3 slices of ham. 
  4. On each serving plate arrange a small bed of greens in the center. Arrange the asparagus bundle on top of greens, and garnish with mushroom salad (recipe below). Add a slice of goat cheese on top of or leaning on the asparagus. Season with freshly ground black pepper. Serve.

 Directions for Mushroom Salad

  1. Heat a medium sauté pan over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil, then add the mushrooms and garlic and sauté until just tender.
  2. Add the basil and continue to cook for 1 minute. Add 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and stir all ingredients to mix.
  3. Remove from heat. Place the mushrooms in a bowl, add the remaining olive oil and vinegar, and mix. Season with pepper. Refrigerate until chilled.
  4. Mix lightly before serving.

EcoLink — May 2013 Ecolink
An online publication of the Ecology Center

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