Healthcare sustainability: Reducing food waste

Watch our “Lean” approach to reducing food waste video.

One of the key components of any environmental program is reducing the amount of waste that is generated. As with any dietary program, there will always be some amount of food leftover from the service line and scraps from food prep.

At Gundersen Health System, the Nutrition and Hospitality Services department uses a tracking program called LeanPath® to determine exactly how much and what food is thrown away every week. The data is fed into a software program that gives staff valuable information, such as the time of day or day of the week that the most food waste is generated or the type of food that is thrown away most often.

Based on the data, changes are made to reduce the waste. Many of the changes are fairly simple to accomplish, like adjusting the amount of soup that is warmed up at certain times of day or educating staff on how to prepare vegetables so there is less scrap waste. These simple changes can add up to huge cost savings.

A byproduct of the food waste reduction program is a food donation program to the local Salvation Army. Each day, food is left over that is still safe to eat but cannot be served in the hospital due to food service regulations. Instead of throwing away the food, Nutrition and Hospitality Services staff package it up, label it and set it aside in the cooler or freezer. A Salvation Army member picks up the food to be served in their soup kitchen. Gundersen donates more than 500 meals a month.

By rethinking how food is prepared and finding ways to use leftovers, you can reduce the amount of food that is being put into the waste stream.

Learn more about reducing food waste at gundersenenvision.org.

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