Curing Hospital Food Waste

An Oregon hospital hopes that increased food choices will enhance patient health and happiness. A nice byproduct, hopefully, will be less wasted food.

Ashland Community Hospital recently began allowing patients to order what they want, when they want it. They also improved the options. Unappetizing meals no longer arrive at the stroke of 8 a.m., noon and 5 by cafemama (via Creative Commons)

There will be less waste if patients choose when and what they eat, as the hospital’s dietary services manager Rebecca Fowler noted:

After a few months, Fowler said she expects costs to decrease because less food will be wasted.

While more menu choice will lead to less plate waste from patients, it will create more excess in the kitchen. That’s an improvement, though, as unserved food can be reserved, repurposed or donated to the hungry through food recovery groups.

With health care so costly, don’t patients deserve more say in when they receive their food? It might bring some logistical hurdles, but they’re worth clearing because the “one size fits all” model of food service guarantees unhappy (and possibly unhealthy) patients and much food waste.

For example, a UK study found the average plate waste was 14 percent of the meal’s weight. One Minnesota hospital saved $50,000 in one year by trimming its waste. Sizable numbers.

What you think of the increased choice idea? And do you have any hospital food waste stories?

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