Tag Archives: hospital food

Visualizing the Future of Health Care and On-site Food Production

For three years, Project SOIL has used case studies, pilot projects and visioning sessions to investigate the viability of on-site food production at public institutions, through collaborative arrangements with local food producers.


Check out our final report!

Over that time, interest in food production on public land has continued to grow, with schools and universities, health care institutions and seniors residences, community food centres and food banks, as well as public agencies—from conservation authorities to crown corporations—making land available for food production.

Are you an engaged staff member, or an administrator at a public institution, who is interested in the idea of establishing food production or food gardens on-site? This research has established a baseline of preconditions, useful practices, potential barriers and positive adaptations—for a diverse set of institutional and community settings—that will allow project leads to envision how their idea would come to fruition, and build a compelling case.

Maybe you’re part of a community where public institutions control a significant amount of land, and you would like to develop a strategic vision that includes food production? Community groups, farmers, and organizations supporting urban agriculture, food security and food justice can use the information contained in the research report to identify what has worked in a situation similar to their own, and present this evidence to build a compelling proposal for their institutional partner.


Or maybe you’re a policy-shaper—working with new and young farmer training organizations, or advocates of sustainable health care reform, sustainable urban agriculture practices, or community resilience in the face of climate change—to illustrate the potential of positive alternative strategies to build new collaborative partnerships with multiple, and often unanticipated, synergies and benefits.

Project SOIL has built strong relationships with community and institutional leaders that will continue to innovate and collaborate in the pursuit of the beneficial synergies that spring up when you grow food on public land.

Our final report, “Ontario Public Institutions and On-site Food Production: Visualizing the Future for Health Care“, is available now. Please share widely!

Are Hospital Farms the Next Big Thing in Healthcare Reform?

… from Civil Eats, July 21, 2015

When it comes to improving the food on today’s hospital trays, some medical institutions are finding that onsite farms are the next logical step

This summer, St. Luke’s Hospital started sending all new moms home from the hospital with a basket of fresh produce, recipes and literature about the importance of a healthy diet. Continue reading Are Hospital Farms the Next Big Thing in Healthcare Reform?

Champlain LHIN and the Healthy Foods initiative

Winchester hospital hungry for gold after reaching ‘Healthy Foods’ milestone

Seaway News, July 15, 2015

When it comes to providing better food choices, it seems Winchester District Memorial Hospital is the picture of good health. WDMH became the second hospital in eastern Ontario to reach the bronze level in the regional ‘Healthy Foods in Champlain Hospitals’ initiative. The initiative aims to reduce unhealthy food and beverage choices in the hospital’s cafeteria, vending machines and gift shop. Read more

Pembroke Regional Hospital signs on to healthy food program

Daily Observer, May 14, 2015

The Pembroke Regional Hospital (PRH) has voluntarily signed on as one of fifteen participating hospitals in the Healthy Foods in Champlain Hospitals program and is well on its way to completing the program’s first level of requirements and achieving a Bronze designation.

The Healthy Foods initiative was developed to create a supportive, healthy food environment for patients, visitors, staff, physicians and volunteers by providing better food options in hospital retail settings. Read more

Arnprior hospital praised for commitment to healthy eating

Inside Ottawa Valley, March 19, 2015

Arnprior Regional Hospital (ARH) has become the first of 15 hospitals participating in the Champlain Healthy Foods in Hospitals program to reach the Bronze designation – a full year ahead of the target date. “Congratulations to the team at Arnprior Regional Health for its commitment to improving the health of our community,” said Champlain LHIN CEO Chantale LeClerc in a news release. “I am extremely proud that hospitals in our region are modeling healthy eating to the thousands of patients, visitors, staff, physicians, and volunteers they serve. The Healthy Foods in Hospitals initiative will go a long way to helping a very large number of people stay healthy and avoid disease and the Champlain LHIN is pleased to support its implementation.”

The Healthy Foods initiative is about creating a supportive, healthy food environment for staff, physicians, visitors, patients and volunteers. Read more


Taking ‘Food as Medicine’ to Heart

…from ABC News… A Story of Two Hospitals

St. Joseph’s Hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan, hosts a farmers market every Wednesday in its main lobby featuring produce gown on the hospital’s 25-acre farm. The land used for the farm was a hospital lawn until 2010 when a horse-drawn plow broke ground on the first 4 acres. The farm, now known as “The Farm at St. Joe’s,” has since expanded to include three large “hoop houses,” greenhouse-like structures that provide seasonal produce for the market — as well as patient meals, the hospital’s cafeteria and local food banks — all year long.

Across the country in Long Island, New York, Stony Brook Medicine has also embraced the idea of “farm to bedside.” Iman Marghoob, a registered dietician and horticultural specialist in charge of the hospital’s 4,000-square-foot rooftop garden, said the project is just as important for educating staff, patients and students as it is for providing seasonal vegetables and herbs.

Read more

Growing Food with Purpose: three webinars

Emma’s Acres — L.I.N.C.

Lessons from the Farm at St. Joe’s

Project SOIL


Webinar 1


Tuesday, 21 October, 2014 – 13:00 EDT

Emma’s Acres — L.I.N.C.
Emma’s Acres is an agricultural social enterprise that 1) provides offenders with employment skills and reintegration supports as they are transitioning out of prison, 2) assists survivors of serious crime through the outreach worker funded in part by selling produce that is grown on site and 3) enhances the food security in the District of Mission by creating a year round local source of non- spray vegetables, herbs and flowers. “Inspiring hope… Helping victims one squash at a time.”

Sherry Edmunds-Flett, executive director of L.I.N.C., will be talking about digital storytelling and how it helps in project evaluation and getting the message out. A developmental evaluation of the Society’s activities was the result of a collaboration between the University of BC’s Research in Health and Healthcare Inequities and L.I.N.C.

For more details, please visit: http://foodsecurecanada.org/resources-news/webinars-podcasts/webinar-emmas-acres-linc

Webinar 2


Tuesday, 21 October, 2014 – 14:00 EDT

Lessons from the Farm at St. Joe’s

Leaders from Saint Joseph Mercy Health System will share their story, which includes The Farm at St. Joe’s, a 364-acre farm and educational experience on the grounds of St. Joseph Mercy in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where organic planting methods provide patients, staff, volunteers and visitors an experiential way to understand the link between fresh air, exercise, fresh food, good nutrition and good health. In this presentation, the staff behind the creation and management of the farm will share some of the lessons they’ve learned and insights into how other health care organizations can take what they’ve learned and adapt it for their own organization, how to generate support for environmental projects, how to find community partners and more.

For more details please visit: https://academy.practicegreenhealth.org/products/sustainable-operations-series-lessons-from-the-farm-at-st-joes

Webinar 3


Wednesday, October 22, 15:00 EDT

Project SOIL webinar

In Ontario, several institutions are already producing food on their properties as a way to generate revenue; supply nutritious fresh food for consumption (by staff, patients, students, etc.); provide skills training and therapeutic benefits; and build social enterprises.

Project SOIL is a three-year feasibility study that explores the potential of on-site food production at public health care and educational institutions in Ontario.  This webinar will share how project partners at health care, social service and educational institutions went about getting gardens off the ground at their institutions, as well as some of the lessons we learned in the first year of working with pilot projects across the province.

For more details, please visit: http://projectsoil.ca/2014/09/23/project-soil-webinar/

Changing Hospital Food

Sick Kids café transformed with fresh, local food

from TheStar.com
Michele Henry

It may look and taste like a roti from any one of this city’s many Caribbean takeout joints: firm, flavourful chicken, well-spiced potatoes, a hearty wrap and throat-tickling mango chutney.

But this $7.65 lunch comes with a few surprises.

First, it’s hospital food. Second, it’s fresh, not processed. Third, the ingredients are all local. The chicken’s from a farm near Bradford, Ont. The bread was made by Norman Sue Bakery in Scarborough. As was the mango chutney. And the potatoes come from Essex Country in southwestern Ontario.

“They weren’t ripening on a truck somewhere,” says Shawn Studholme, executive chef at Sick Kids hospital, of the raw ingredients used daily in the hospital atrium’s Terrace Café kitchen. “If it was picked yesterday, I’ll probably have it today.”

How ’bout them apples?

Since last year, when it received its first $50,000 Greenbelt Foundation grant, the hospital has upped the cafeteria’s quotient of fresh, local food to a whopping 70 per cent. That’s impressive, considering other large institutions, such as Ryerson University, strive to buy 25 per cent of their food from nearby sources.

Read more

Improving the quality of hospital food in Ontario

Health Sciences North should serve as an example to other Ontario hospitals with its recent efforts to purchase more local food, said Louis Rodrigues, regional vice-president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions.

… Alex Jackson, co-ordinator of the Campaign for Better Hospital Food in England, joined Rodrigues on his tour of Ontario communities. Jackson said he worries Ontario hospitals could follow the same path as those in his home country, where the quality of the food has declined steadily.

Read more

A Fresh Approach

From Canadian Healthcare Manager Dec 18, 2013

Hospitals and foodservice providers are making great strides in improving patients’ food experience by incorporating ingredients that are healthy, fresh and local


Cue the stereotype. Hospital food is notoriously bad.

Horror stories abound, as an Internet search quickly reveals. In one incident, a vegetarian was served a dinner of cold carrots—and nothing else. Another woman encountered overcooked, bland and mushy food so bad it was “beyond cliché.” Her husband, a former chef, began preparing food at home and bringing it to her bedside.

Hospitals, government, non-profit organizations and foodservice providers are working to improve patients’ culinary experience with healthier meal options incorporating local foods

But things are changing. Hospitals, government, non-profit organizations and foodservice providers are working to improve patients’ culinary experience with healthier meal options incorporating local foods. Result: Improved patient satisfaction and along with it, cost savings realized through reduced waste.

Local, fresh, sustainable

On the foodservice side, there’s Steamplicity. Developed by Compass Group in the U.K. and brought to Canada in 2009 by the company’s Canadian division, Steamplicity uses hospitals’ onsite microwave ovens to steam food using ingredients’ natural moisture. At the company’s Cuisine Centre, in Mississauga, Ont., entrees are prepared on a microwave-safe plate, sealed with a recyclable plastic polymer and chilled.

Ten hospitals in Ontario and B.C. use Steamplicity, according to Sharon McDonald, president of Compass Group Canada’s Morrison Healthcare division. The two B.C. hospitals, Royal Jubilee and Victoria General, prepare Steamplicity meals onsite in mini-Cuisine Centres.

Steamplicity offers 60 meal options—for example, wild Pacific salmon and steamed rice with fresh broccoli florets— developed by Morrison’s executive chef and dietitians. Wherever possible, Compass purchases ingredients that are local, fresh and sustainable, said McDonald.

Royal Jubilee and Victoria General introduced Steamplicity in January, 2012, and since then, patient satisfaction levels have risen dramatically, said Joe Murphy, vice-president, operations and support services at Vancouver Island Health Authority. Organic food waste has fallen to an average of 9,450 kg per month, down from an average of 15,400 kg per month, he said.

Providing healthy patient-menu options is The Fresh and Local Cookbook Developed for Healthcare Foodservices, published in mid-November by Burlodge Canada, a Brampton, Ont.-based manufacturer of retherm systems used to reheat chilled or frozen prepared foods. The cookbook features 79 retherm-friendly recipes for hot dishes and cold items such as salads, sandwiches and desserts tailored to hospitals’ nutritional requirements.

Ethnic flavour added

St. Michael’s Hospital, in Toronto, will be adding a Burlodge recipe—Mexican lasagna—to its patient menus. The lasagna is “unique” and will “add some ethnic flavour,” said Heather Fletcher, interim director of foodservice and patient transport at the 450-bed facility.

During the past two and a half years, the hospital has incorporated healthier foods and now, the “majority” of fruits and vegetables on patient menus are fresh, in-season “when we can get them” and sourced from Ontario, Fletcher said.

In addition, St. Michael’s offers healthier desserts such as fruit, yogurt, mixed-berry crisps and low-fat pudding. “We’ve seen a noted improvement in the amount of food consumed and in food waste,” said Fletcher.

Can order what they want

Also seeing increased patient satisfaction is Capital Health, which services 10 Nova Scotia hospitals.

The menu at Capital Health’s acute-care facilities offers up to eight options for each appetizer, salad, entrée and dessert category, said Jane Pryor, director of operations support. Everything is made from scratch and “all food contracts give preference to local suppliers, where available,” she said. Local foods include meats and in-season fruits, vegetables and lobster.

“There’s less waste because people can now order what they want,” she said.

Baked and grilled over fried

Out west, Alberta Health Services (AHS) has made great strides in recent years to patient menus at its 107 facilities, where food is made on-site.

AHS removed deep fryers in favour of baked and grilled foods, said Heather Truber, director, food safety, menu and supply, nutrition and foodservices. In 2012, AHS introduced Closer to Home, a program allowing facilities to make site-specific changes to dishes to satisfy patients’ tastes, while still adhering to master menus and dietary restrictions, said Truber. AHS is continually working to enhance their menu items by, for example, introducing lemon-dill sauce for fish and offering dried cranberries, which patients can add to hot or cold cereals.

During the past year, AHS has focused on sourcing more Alberta products, which now account for 29 per cent of its food offering (not including produce), up from 24 per cent in 2012, said Truber. Alberta producers supply greenhouse and field peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers and potatoes, grains, in-season fruits and all of AHS’s eggs and beef as part of the organization’s $55-million annual food buy. Truber said the new menu items are generating “positive patient feedback.”

Local product percentage boost

Local products have become a bigger part of the food buy in the St. Joseph’s Health System Group Purchasing Organization following a $65,000 pilot project, bankrolled by the Green Belt Fund, a privately and publicly funded non-profit organization working to increase the amount of Ontario foods in hospitals.

Undertaken between January 2011 and March 2012, the pilot project invited local food vendors to participate in the request for proposal (RFP) process. Now, Ontario products account for $1.5-million of the group purchasing organization’s annual food buy, up from “well under $1-million before the project,” said Wendy Smith, material management analyst in the MEALsource division, which aggregates volumes and facilitates the contract process for its 26 member patient-foodservice operations.

“Our success would not have been possible without the hard work of our partners for this project at My Sustainable Canada.” Smith added. “They first determined the origin of the products originally on contract, aided with reaching out to local vendors who could meet these needs and made the appropriate introductions so that MEALsource could proceed with the necessary vendor education to enable these folks to begin bidding on our business.

“We found that the RFP process was very daunting for local vendors and many did not know that it existed.  As well, there was much work involved in ensuring that the products quoted met the safety and inspection standards necessary for healthcare procurement.  This project has done much to increase the level of competition in our contract process and through that, everyone wins.”

Chef-driven, right from scratch

In 2010, foodservice provider Sodexo Canada, headquartered in Burlington, Ont., introduced chef-driven, scratch-made food at 491-bed Mackenzie Health hospital, in Richmond Hill, Ont., north of Toronto. Making everything from scratch gives the 10-chef team flexibility to alter recipes “literally overnight” to meet dietitians’ requests, says Gay Magrath, a Sodexo employee who works onsite at Mackenzie Health as director of foodservices.

Complementing the food is “high-touch” customer service whereby a Mackenzie Health staff member visits patients right before mealtimes to display the menu on a hand-held device. Patients then make their choices, restaurant-style.

Magrath said that since 2010, food waste has decreased “significantly” and fell by more than 8 per cent during the past year.

Healthy Food in Health Care Pledge

More healthy and local food initiatives are underway. In late 2012, the Coalition for Green Health Care, comprising some of Canada’s largest healthcare associations and environmental groups, introduced its Healthy Food in Health Care Pledge, a framework that outlines steps the healthcare industry can take to improve the health of patients, communities and the environment.

In March, 2013, the Greenbelt Fund launched the Local Food Challenge, which helps eight public institutions (including four hospitals) buy more local food for their menus. They will create new recipes, work with local farmers on education and liaise with distributors on local food suppliers. Supporting the program is the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food and Ministry of Rural Affairs.

Those two provincial ministries, as part of their New Directions Research Program, are funding a three-year, $200,000 pilot project exploring the possibility of growing food on publicly owned institutional land. Developed in partnership with the Coalition for Green Health Care and My Sustainable Canada, a national non-profit group dedicated to helping organizations make sustainable choices, the project launched in September, 2013, at two healthcare facilities, Homewood Health Centre, in Guelph, Ont., and Glengarry Memorial Hospital, in Alexandria, Ont.

So much for stereotypes.

Don Douloff is a freelance writer living in Toronto.