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4 lessons on sustainability in healthcare foodservice post-Covid

By Leanpath  ///  July 9, 2021

HospitalBedThe Association of Healthcare Foodservice (AHF) hosted a recent webinar focusing on why sustainability initiatives are so important right now. The webinar panel included Leanpath CEO Andrew Shakman alongside Gina Sadowski, Director for Nutrition, Culinary and Retail at Seattle Children’s Hospital, and Richard Young, Director of Education at the Frontier Energy Foodservice Technology Center. Watch the full webinar here, and check out four key takeaways from the session below.

Now is the time to pivot
As the industry builds back from COVID-19’s upheaval, it presents the opportunity to build in more sustainable practices. “The business case for sustainability has only become greater,” argued Shakman. “We have all been tested and we see why it’s so critical to operate everyday to be resilient and sustainable for the long haul.”

If you’re reworking your menu, as Sadowski pointed out, now is the time to build in more plant-based options. Replacing equipment? Now is the time to take advantage of government rebates for energy efficient equipment, as Young said.

Food waste prevention is a great place to start with sustainability
“A great place to start [in sustainability] is with food waste,” said Sadowski. “It’s certainly not efficient to be sourcing high-quality, sustainable ingredients with half of it ending up in the compost bin. So you want to eliminate as much waste as possible from your system before you start embellishing the menu with sustainable ingredients.”

And, as Shakman pointed out, when you work on reducing food waste, you work on some of the planet’s most pressing issues: water use, land use, and hunger. “The bonus is when you reduce food waste you save money,” he said. 

Sustainability means more efficient labor and spending
“We’re all being asked to do more with less,” said Sadowksi. “If you’re not running an efficient operation, you’re probably not in business anymore.” Sustainability means greater efficiency. Sadowski has led the effort to use less meat on Seattle Children’s menu, replaced with more plant-based options, increasing sustainability and decreasing costs. “When you reduce meat purchases you automatically reduce cost.”

Likewise, when you prevent food waste, you are able to purchase less food and still feed as many diners. And when you waste less food, you have to prep less food, making kitchen teams more efficient.

Set a goal and measure your progress
Whatever sustainability effort a healthcare foodservice operation decides to focus on, you need to start with a goal, the panel agreed. Whether that goal is to reduce food waste by 50% for instance, or increase the use of antibiotic free meats by 60%, measurement is critical to understand your baseline--your starting point--and to understand your progress toward attaining your goal.

Measurement supplies valuable data, but has another benefit as well: the act of measurement focuses attention on the initiative. “The moment you task your frontline teams with measurement ...it focuses culture and changes behavior,” said Shakman. “We see with food waste [measurement] huge impact.”


For more insight on the value of food waste prevention, check out our new e-book Why Food Waste Prevention Should be Your Top Sustainability Priority.

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Topics: Food Waste News