By Malia Durbano

Dan Viti

Patients and employees of the Southwest Memorial Hospital in Cortez are eating well these days.

New Director of Hospitality Services Dan Viti is doing away with the frozen and canned vegetables and bringing in fresh, mostly organically and locally grown vegetables. He is purchasing mixed greens from Stone Free Farm in Cortez and an array of lettuces and vegetables from Eagle Tree Farm in Dolores.

“I want our services here to be viewed as a Five Star Hotel/ Resort. The only difference is our customers are sick,” Viti explains. He believes the patients should reap the benefits of local food because good nutrition is part of the healing process and aids in speedy recovery.

His menus will include as many local vegetables as possible, including tomatoes, asparagus, beets, broccoli, cabbage, celery, peppers, cucumbers, peas, potatoes and onions. An herb garden on the hospital grounds will soon provide parsley, basil, cilantro and dill.

Pork from Bertho Farms in Cortez (processed by Sunnyside Farms in Durango) will be served. Viti’s future plans include adding locally raised beef.

Viti is reaching out to the local farmers to establish mutually beneficial relationships. His recent in-house survey indicates that the staff will support a farmer’s market at the hospital. “I will hand pick products from local farmers and make them available. What doesn’t get purchased, I will use in my recipes. I’m all about spreading the wealth and creating partnerships.” Viti hopes to purchase fresh veggies throughout the winter from local operations with greenhouses.

Not many people consider going to a hospital for breakfast or lunch, but Viti says he has noticed a steady increase in the number of meals served. `