Healing Hospital Waste

Hospitals are going to waste a lot of food. They just are.

Hospitals must provide patients with the required amount of food, even when they have little or no appetite. That ingrained plate waste is a major disadvantage for hospitals. But that doesn’t mean they can’t reduce their waste.

Two hospitals in La Crosse, Wis., have dramatically trimmed their food waste. Gundersen Lutheran (paging Dr. Keillor) has halved its waste in just six months.

How have they done so? A few ways. The hospital kitchen produces smaller batches of each item, so there’s less to discard at the end of each meal. And then there’s the food tracking system (by LeanPath, I’m guessing) that helps a hospital or any commercial kitchen learn how much it’s wasting and why. And then there’s the donation of edible food, which has found a home for two-thirds of the food Gundersen used to trash.

Finally, there’s the introduction of choice. That simple concept is a huge waste avoider in homes, supermarkets and restaurants, and hospitals are no different. Franciscan Skemp, the other hospital mentioned in the article, has begun letting patients order the food they want, when they want it.

It has slashed waste, which makes perfect sense:

“We have decreased plate waste, patients order what they want, so therefore they eat it, so we have minimum waste,” said Walter Shillinger, nutrition services director at Franciscan Skemp.

And here’s the kicker: Franciscan will save $200,000 from reduced waste in 2011.

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