Food: For Health and Community

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Food for Health and Community

Food: For Health and Community

John Muir Health Showcases Fresh Food and Beautiful Design
by Katy Ford and Diane T Sands, Ratcliff.

Informed hospital design and operation influences healing outcomes. Good nutrition does the same for our bodies, making us happier, healthier and more content. Knowing that food and nutrition are fundamental determinants of health (Lancet, 2016), John Muir Health in Walnut Creek, showcased a new café front and center of the campus. Ratcliff’s commitment to sustainable healthcare design made them the perfect partner to help John Muir Health achieve the Healthier Food Challenge for the Healthier Hospitals Initiative. Healthcare providers have the power to purchase environmentally sustainable foods and provide healthier meals and beverages to patients, employees, visitors and the communities they serve. (HHI, 2018)

Ratcliff’s design team planned the new 13,000 square-foot café to be adjacent to the main lobby, where corner windows overlook a public walkway with sunshade and lush perimeter landscaping. “A hospital cafe should be as much of a healing environment as it is the location of healthy food. This means views to the outside and lots of natural light for diners.” (Weidler, 2018) An added benefit to creating this space was the increased amount of connection and social engagement happening between visitors, their families, and between employees. A palpable change in behavior was observed whether in places for impromptu meetings, or in quite spots for reflection. A new energy fills the air. The design and construction team, led by Michael Monaldo, Celia Karian and CB Buller of JMH with Ratcliff Architects and Swinerton Builders had a shared satisfaction of creating a space that enhances human connectivity within the hospital community.

Natural light, views to the outdoors, reduced noise and comfortable seating are ingredients for tranquil yet vibrant spaces. “A view of natural elements was found to buffer the negative impact of job stress and to have a similar effect on general well-being. “(Leather, 1998) The design team studied the opposing nature of hot food off the grill and cold salad/raw vegetables and chilled food to go. This concept of “fire and ice” continues in the design: a warm color scheme with accents of cool shades. An earthy gray floor tile was used to ground the space, and pops of color on accent walls set off local artwork.

Large entry doors from both the main lobby and secondary staff corridor stay open to allow easy access from the hospital and improve wayfinding. In the main dining area, a large, curved banquette separates circulation from dining and directs views out to a garden patio. A variety of seating types and alcoves in the cafe provide intimacy and privacy. One dining area doubles as meeting space with AV. Another private dining room is equipped for meetings, with computer infrastructure, a workstation, and catering bar. John Muir Health benefits from a temperate climate that is perfect for alfresco dining. The café takes advantage of the weather with vines and plant screens. The courtyard holds classic patio furniture and umbrellas. Post occupancy feedback indicates this courtyard is one of the most appreciated spaces of the design, which would not have happened without the generous donation of supporters of the hospital who had the insight early on as to the benefits of comfortable outdoor seating.

JMH’s large basement kitchen serves patient bed floors via elevator, thereby separating food circulation from public areas. This kitchen is convenient for loading and receiving, and also serves a conference center that frequently hosts catered lunches. Since hospitals operate 24/7, in addition to the aforementioned cafeteria, a separate vending room and coffee bar accommodate extended hours. The coffee bar is located off the main corridor so as not to back up traffic into the main servery. This grab-and-go spot is so popular the operator has had to quadruple the fresh food offerings.

Where many hospitals are hiring out their food service to large corporations, John Muir Health resisted the trend. They hired a proud and skillful food service crew who create fresh “farm to table” fare in tune with healthy living. John Muir Health has the advantage of location. Northern California has abundant sources for local, organic produce. A bold choice was made by Nutrition Service director Sandra Rigney and her team by eliminating the soda machine in an effort to reduce the consumption of soda. Free fresh water dispensers are instead placed in the dining areas used as subtle encouragement to drink more water. The renovation is an excellent example of healthy choices, calming environments and after-hour service.

Through their substantial purchasing power and health focus, healthcare systems like John Muir Health are ideally positioned to create change. (Gerwig, 2015) The new café, showcases how good food coupled with good design can improve the health of patients, visitors and staff.



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