Hospital kitchens can produce a staggering number of meals. Each patient is likely provided three meals a day. Multiply this by the number of patients, staff and visitors in a hospital and the sheer amount of food can be shocking. BioCycle reported that a 1,000 bed hospital produced more than 8,600 dishes a day, which was distributed among the main cafeteria, patients, staff dining rooms and other vendors. Another concern for hospital food services is the waste that is generated from these dishes. Throwing away the uneaten food is a waste and composting requires a well-maintained sorting procedure that may not yet be viable. However, there is another option that can benefit not only hospitals, but also local food kitchens.
Donating extra food
In hospital food service, there are situations where entire dishes may not be touched. Rather than let these meals go to waste, health care food services can save these meals for donation. Hospitals that want to implement a donation system need to conduct some research on local food kitchens and pick one close enough for easy transportation. An administration staff member and a cook should visit the food kitchen and propose the idea. From there, the groups will have to work out proper transportation procedures to ensure that the food will be safe.
It may be wise to establish a two-way system. The food kitchen can make routine pickups depending on the average amount of leftovers produced by the hospital. However, there may be days when more food is available for donation. Space is valuable, so having available staff members who can bring meals to the food kitchen will ensure that hospital food staff can continue to work efficiently.
The implementation of a donation system will require hospital kitchen staff to reconfigure their space. A portion of the refrigerator will have to be used for donation storage. Additionally, employees will have to recognize when the capacity is reached and the proper procedure for scheduling a pickup or delivery.
Though the beginning of this partnership will require a fair amount of work, coordination and experimentation, the benefits are worth the time and effort. Hospitals will be able to save food that would otherwise be wasted and food kitchens will have an additional resource to take advantage of. This will also increase a healthcare institution’s community outreach and sustainability practices.