Plans to more than double food from province
The hospital will participate in the Greenbelt Fund's Local Food Challenge to more than double the amount of food it purchases from Ontario growers and producers for patient meals.
The Greenbelt Fund is a non-profit organization that works to enhance the sustainability of agriculture in Ontario.
Kathy Berger, Health Sciences North's manager of food services, said money from the food challenge wouldn't go far without a concerted effort from the hospital to change its purchasing habits and reach out to Ontario farmers.
The hospital spends about $100,000 each month to purchase food for around 400 patients. The hospital's kitchen, for the in-patient food program, has around 50 employees, and is not too different from an operation at a large hotel.
But unlike most private dining establishments, Health Sciences North's kitchen staff must accommodate 100 different diet types, ranging from vegetarian options to meals prepared specifically for patients with diabetes or heart failure.
Berger said around 11 per cent of the hospital's food comes from Ontario, and with the new program the goal will be to increase that proportion by 15 per cent.
The hospital's milk is sourced from Ontario, and all the potatoes come from Valley Growers, based in Blezard Valley.
“If we can increase our Sudbury purchases that's great,” Berger said.
Valley Growers co-owner Gerry Philippe said the hospital is one of his farm's biggest customers.
“They must like the service and the quality.”
Valley Growers produces 15 million pounds of potatoes each year, he said.
With an increased focused on Ontario produce, Philippe said his farm and others in the Sudbury region could benefit.
He said local food is good for consumers because it's usually fresher, and therefore of higher quality than food that is shipped long distances.
Health Sciences North retail food services, managed by Marek Hospitality, will also increase the availability of Ontario-based ingredients. Stewart Brown, director of retail food services at the hospital, said the cafeteria already sources 30 to 40 per cent of its food from Ontario.
In summer, they are already able to buy more food from producers in Greater Sudbury.
“We're just looking to build on that,” he said.
Marek spends around $10,000 to $12,000 on food for the hospital cafeteria per week, and it handles 800 to 1,200 transactions per day.
Brown also oversees the hospital's two Tim Hortons, which handle an additional 1,600 transactions every day.
He said an increased focus on local food should help dispel myths about hospital food – namely, that it's not high quality.
“We always use fresh vegetables,” Brown said. “Everything is essentially from scratch.”