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Organic Healthy Food Comes to Saint Michael's

  • Category: News
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  • Written By: Saint Michael's Press Office
Organic Healthy Food Comes to Saint Michael's

Michael Petronaci, the CEO of Organic Pharmer, demonstrates a new vending machine to employee Adelaida Martinez.

Visitors and employees at Saint Michael’s Medical Center won’t have to travel far for a healthy lunch or snack any longer.

The hospital began offering a health vending machine right next to its cafe.

The Organic Pharmer vending machine dispenses health food, drinks and snacks free of commonly known allergens: gluten, corn, soy, dairy and egg.

“This is about food as medicine,” said Michael Petronaci, CEO of Organic Pharmer. “Our mission is to provide access to tasty hand-prepared foods that are nutritionally sound with clean ingredients. Very often, what we put into our body is overlooked and we’ve had to turn to medicine to heal what could have been fixed through simple dietary changes.”

Organic Pharmer started as a storefront in Rye Brook, N.Y. and now has expanded into vending machines that can go pretty much anywhere.

One of the founders, Dr. Susan Blum, is a functional medicine physician, and she ensures that every ingredient used in the meals has a medical reason and health benefit - making them nutritionally sound. Blum is also the author of the best-selling book “The Immune System Recovery Plan” and her most recent book “Healing Arthritis.”

When Petronaci joined the company a year and a half ago, he said he wanted to find ways to make its products available to a wider audience at various price levels. The idea of offering the food through a vending machine was born.

Saint Michael’s is the first location for Organic Pharmer’s vending machine, Petronaci said, with more rolling out all year.

The vending machine had an advocate in Tracy Hubbell, the regional assistant general counsel for the Northeast for Prime Healthcare, which owns Saint Michael's. Hubbell, a vegan, works out of Saint Michaels and was looking for a healthier alternative.

“Food is medicine, and I am very excited that Organic Pharmer is committed to Saint Michael’s, offering our employees, patients and visitors fresh, healthy, and very tasty foods,” Hubbell said. “I love the way I feel after eating their food.”

The Organic Pharmer vending machine does not work like typical vending machines that dispense junk food or soft drinks. There is a tablet on the door that shows all the products, ingredients, nutrition and price that are in the fridge in real time.

“To open the door, simply swipe a credit card,” Petronaci said. “When you've decided on a product, grab it and close the fridge door. Once it's closed it will register what you took and charge you. Add your email to the tablet for a receipt and you are good to go.”

While the price of the Organic Pharmer products tends to be more than a typical fast food lunch, Petronaci said comparing organic, vegan food to chicken fingers and mozzarella sticks isn’t a fair comparison.

“We try to get our price point as low as we possibly can, but products we use in our food are going to be a little more expensive,” Petronaci said. "At the end of the day, you have to make a decision: Do I want to spend a little bit extra now to provide myself nourishing food, so I don’t have to pay later in health care costs? It’s a preventative health decision.”