The campaigns goal is to help create institutional policies through nourishing meals made from locally bought ingredients for patients who may have been accustomed to powdered mashed potatoes as a mainstay of “hospital food.” (rawpixel)

The campaigns goal is to help create institutional policies through nourishing meals made from locally bought ingredients for patients who may have been accustomed to powdered mashed potatoes as a mainstay of “hospital food.” (rawpixel)

Push for fresh, local hospital food across Canada over ‘pitiful’ alternatives

Chefs and dieticians were offered fellowships as part of a campaign called Nourish Health

Wild salmon with lemon dill sauce, blueberry soup and bone broth may be high-end restaurant meals but they’re also on the menu at some Canadian hospitals aiming to meet recovering patients’ nutritional and cultural needs.

The recipes are among dozens that have been developed by 26 people, including food-service managers, chefs and dieticians who were offered two-year fellowships at hospitals from British Columbia to Newfoundland and Labrador as part of a campaign called Nourish Health.

Its goal is to help create institutional policies through nourishing meals made from locally bought ingredients for patients who may have been accustomed to powdered mashed potatoes as a mainstay of “hospital food.”

Norish Health spokeswoman Hayley Lapalme said the initiative, predominately funded by the McConnell Foundation, also aims to elevate the role of food as an important part of healing, though food services are categorized with other expenditures such as laundry and parking.

READ MORE: B.C. university students dumpster dive to shed light on food waste

Two hospitals in Haida Gwaii, B.C., on the province’s west coast, have been part of the program that has allowed staff to use traditional ingredients such as wild salmon, cod and halibut in the region where half the population is Indigenous.

Shelly Crack, a dietician for Northern Health, said much of the food served at the facilities was brought in from other provinces and countries, adding to transportation and environmental costs when fish, berries and vegetables were available locally.

“A lot of our elders like the salmon served lightly seasoned with salt and pepper, with sauces served on the side,” said Crack, adding traditional foods have helped people connect to positive experiences from their early years, and that has promoted healing.

“It almost brings them right back to the land and memories of family and harvesting food. It’s that connection to culture and family, this feeling of well-being.

Health-care policy leaders, doctors and those involved in the national fellowship will be attending the Food for Health Symposium in Toronto on Wednesday and Thursday to showcase sustainable recipes that could be included on hospital menus in 2030, decades after governments across the country contracted out food services at most facilities as a cost-saving measure.

Alex Munter, CEO of the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, said the Ottawa facility became the first in Canada to introduce room service 15 years ago.

He said offerings like dim sum, butter chicken and tacos drove up patients’ satisfaction with food from 30 per cent to 98 per cent while lowering expenses because food was being eaten, not tossed in the garbage.

“We’re about healing and nourishing and not about feeding,” Munter said of the room-service model most common in the United States.

“Since 2015, we’ve been providing local and sustainable menus for patients and families,” he said. “If your child is here you can order off the menu as well as in the cafeteria.”

Munter said the hospital’s chef, Simon Wiseman, is among the 26 “innovators” in the Nourish initiative and last week created a tofu dish as a potential contender in a competition at the symposium.

The focus was zero waste, and even the plate was made of wheat, Munter said.

Toronto chef Joshna Maharaj said she helped create a healthy menu at the Scarborough Hospital in Ontario as part of a one-year pilot project in 2011, when she cooked food on site with staff whose cooking skills had gone to waste after years of reheating trucked-in frozen meals.

However, she said the program was not continued due to unrelated policy changes.

Maharaj said food served at most hospitals may be deemed nutritiously adequate, but it falls far short of what is healthy for sick people, as she recently learned after a day surgery that required a tube to be put down her throat.

She said a slushie or a sorbet would have been ideal but she decided ice cubes and ginger ale would suffice after “a most pitiful egg salad sandwich with dry corners” got stuck to the roof of her mouth.

“The deep insult of it was what hit me,” Maharaj said, adding she’s decided to spend her career advocating for healthy hospital food.

“Once we deal with the food on the plate there’s a much broader opportunity for institutions to support health and wellness and make wonderful financial impacts in the local economy and the agriculture economy. We have a sad, sad lack of vision about this in the country, which is why I’m attempting to scream and yell so loudly.”

Camille Bains, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Pharmacist Barbara Violo arranges empty vials of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine that she has provided to customers at the Junction Chemist, an independent pharmacy in Toronto, Monday, April 19, 2021. Younger Canadians in several provinces are now able to get the AstraZeneca vaccine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
AstraZeneca vaccine appointments fill up fast on Vancouver Island

More pharmacies expected to be added as supply increases

The bulk carrier ‘Port Alberni’ is berthed at CentrePort in Wellington, New Zealand on Monday, April 12, 2021. The carrier is 174 metres long by 29 metres wide, flies under a Hong Kong flag and was carrying logs. (CHARMEAD SCHELLA/Special to the News)
Logging ship a trip down memory lane for transplanted Canadian

The 174-metre ‘Port Alberni’ is registered in Hong Kong

Aria Pendak Jefferson cuddles ChiChi, the family cat that ran away two years ago in Ucluelet. The feline was missing until Courtney Johnson and Barry Edge discovered her in the parking lot of the Canadian Princess earlier this month. Aria and her parents were reunited with ChiChi in a parking lot in Port Alberni. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
A little girl’s wish is answered as her cat came back

Courtenay family reunited with cat that went missing in Ucluelet in 2019

Nanaimo poet Kamal Parmar will read some of her poems at Rendezvous with a Poet on Sunday, April 25. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Nanaimo poet to read at virtual Port Alberni event

Rendezvous with a Poet is hosted by Char’s Landing in Port Alberni

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United States President Joe Biden smile as they say farewell following a virtual joint statement in Ottawa, Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau pledges to cut emissions by 40% to 45% by 2030, short of U.S. goal

Trudeau announced target during a virtual climate summit convened by U.S. President Joe Biden

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. COVID-19 hotspots targeted as AstraZeneca vaccine runs low

17,000 appointments booked the first day for people aged 40 and up

B.C. Ferries’ sixth Island-class vessel launches at Damen Shipyards Galati in Romania. The ship is the second of two that will service the Nanaimo-Gabriola Island route starting in 2022. (Photo submitted)
Second hybrid ferry for Nanaimo-Gabriola route launched overseas

Island-class vessel will enter service in 2022

Dresses hang outside Nelson city hall as part of the REDress Project by Métis artist Jaime Black. Photo: Bill Metcalfe
B.C. red dresses symbolizing missing, murdered Indigenous women vandalized a 2nd time

Nelson’s REDress Project was vandalized along with an outdoor installation on Vancouver Island

A nurse loads a syringe with a vaccine for injection at the Victoria Clipper Terminal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
B.C.’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout not enough to bring back normal life by fall: report

Only 51% of the population will be protected under B.C.’s current rollout, SFU professors say more vaccinations are needed to achieve herd immunity

Letisha Reimer, 13, was killed Nov. 1, 2016 in a stabbing at Abbotsford Senior Secondary.
UPDATED: Second-degree murder conviction stands for Abbotsford school killer

Judge finds that Gabriel Klein is criminally responsible for death of Letisha Reimer

FILE – RCMP officers wearing face masks to curb the spread of COVID-19 stand by as protesters opposed to the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion block rail lines, in Burnaby, B.C., on Friday, November 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Very scary’: B.C. travel rules too vague, shouldn’t involve police, civil liberties group says

BCCLA said that speaking with communities could have avoided top-down approach

A man accused of choking a 15-year-old in his tent in Beacon Hill Park Tuesday night has been arrested by Victoria police. (Black Press Media file photo)
Man accused of choking, sexually exploiting 15-year-old in Victoria tent arrested

Police arrested the 38-year-old in Beacon Hill Park Wednesday afternoon

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read