If you’re looking for ways to reduce the costs of your hospital food service and minimize your organization’s carbon footprint, one of your best bets is to reduce the amount of food that’s wasted each day at your facility. According to BioCycle magazine, Americans throw out an estimated 40 percent of the U.S. food supply, and hospitals are a big contributor to this number. Around 10 percent of a hospital’s waste stream is made up of food waste, but luckily there are ways that this amount can be reduced.
Using healthcare software solutions and a few other methods of tracking and dealing with waste, your hospital can develop a food waste management program that benefits your operation on a number of levels, from lower costs, to increased community service, to higher patient satisfaction. Here are the steps you should take to manage food waste at your facility.
Take a look at how much waste is generated
Before you start to make changes to the way you handle your operation, you should take a closer look at how much waste your facility actually produces. This can help you figure out what needs to be done to take care of the situation. BioCycle pointed out that you’ll need to find out not only how much waste is produced, but where this waste is coming from – and it’s not always the kitchen. Cafeterias, dining rooms, break rooms, lounges and special events can all generate their own food waste and contribute to the problem.
Once you track down where the waste is coming from, the source suggested sorting the excess into different categories, including viable food for donation, compostable organic waste and nonrecyclable waste. If you can’t actually sort through the waste, there are some guidelines that may help you. According to the magazine, you should keep in mind that 4 to 10 percent of food purchases in a commercial setting become waste before reaching the consumer. Nearly 0.5 pounds of food waste is generated per meal tray in a cafeteria. For a sample hospital, a waste study found that approximately 0.31 pounds of food waste was generated per meal served.
Decide what you can do with the waste
According to the Healthcare Environmental Resource Center, there are three main options that you have when it comes to what to do with your hospital’s food waste. The first involves donating excess food to local charities, which not only benefits the recipients, but boosts the reputation of your hospital. The second is using composting programs, whether they’re on- or off-site facilities. Many areas have programs already put in place for compositing food waste, and teaming up with other local business can reduce the costs. Check with your town or city to see whether something along these lines is already set up. Finally, the source noted that some food waste can be donated to farmers as feed stock – but only waste that doesn’t include meat and other animal products. Your area’s health department can give you more information.
Develop procedures to reduce waste
Using food service software can help your facility cut down on food waste by ensuring timely, accurate meal ordering. The Hospital Caterers Association also mentioned that hospital staff should help patients choose and order their meals, and the food should be presented in an appealing fashion in an area that’s conducive to eating. Flexible meal services that cater to individual patient needs is also important, as well as serving the meals quickly without delays.
When you take the time to evaluate your hospital’s food waste and update your healthcare software, you can greatly reduce the amount of food and money that’s lost by your facility.