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      Portage Health Hospital serves up healthy food

      The livestock may be slim, but the list of fruits and vegetables grown at Chip Ransom's farm in Houghton is long."Spring mix, zucchini, tomatoes, beans, five types of beans, many herbs--basil, mint, parsley, pretty much you name it," said farm owner Chip Ransom.So when Portage Health Hospital joined the healthy foods initiative, a challenge put forth by the Michigan Hospital Association, the choice of food source was clear."They would like to have 20 percent of what we purchase be from local sources, and when you live in the Upper Peninsula, that becomes difficult because everything comes from Wisconsin," said Director of Food Services at Portage Health Hospital, Mark Pittillo.Chip and Mark joined forces in May. Since then, Mark says they have reinvented the way the hospital eats."I think it makes us a trendsetter; it puts us ahead of all the other hospitals, Pittillo said.More than 200 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetable are delivered to Portage Health each week."We're trying to make it healthier but still good food, and I think we TMre succeeding," Pittillo said.The hospital serves more than 8,000 meals each month, and staff and patients aren't the only hungry hounds around."The hospital has become a place where people go to eat from the community, and we're having to expand our hours," Pittillo said.The kitchen keeps the menu fresh, with most of Chip's homegrown items on the plates. "Some hospital food service directors have said it TMs too tough to deal with small farmers, 'It's a lot more work for me.' It TMs not the work, it TMs more fun. I get to come out here to the farm, I get to know about food, and that's what we're trying to do: educate the people at the hospital about good food," Pittillo said. He says it's a small price to pay for a healthier reward.