2009 Environmental Survey: Paler shade of green

FoodService Director's first Environmental Study find out how operators are tackling sustainability.

Taking on Trash

Health system reduces environmental footprint by recycling, purchasing biodegradable products.

Rob Lester, director of food and nutrition services for Ocala Health in Florida, knows he has a responsibility not only to serve quality nutritious food inside the hospital but also to improve the community he serves. With that in mind, Lester, along with the system’s green committee—of which Lester is the chair—started several green initiatives to reduce waste in the system’s two hospitals, 200-bed Ocala Regional Medical Center and 70-bed West Marion Community Hospital.

Lester and the committee’s goals were to reduce non-biodegradable waste in the cafeteria by 50% and start a recycling program that would reduce overall hospital waste by at least 10% each month. Both of those goals were achieved in the first few months following the programs’ implementation. Lester was so successful in his efforts to decrease disposables entering the landfill and increasing recycling that, in January, the system was awarded the Walt Driggers Environmentalist of the Year Award from the Ocala Chamber of Commerce. The award is given to a group or individual who contributes to the protection and preservation of the environment in Marion County.

“We realized that being a large multisite hospital in town caused us to be one of the largest producers of waste,” Lester wrote in the system’s nomination for the award. “We felt strongly that taking care of the community meant more than just caring for the people but also caring for our beautiful environment.”

Getting started: Lester says a major wake-up call came after he looked at year-end reports that showed just how many disposable products the hospitals were using. Lester found that in 2007 the two hospitals contributed 2 million pieces of disposable products into the local landfill. He decided that the foodservice department would make changes to reduce that number. So on Earth Day 2008, the only disposable products used in the two cafés were biodegradable. China and stainless steel cutlery was also brought in for the day to reduce the amount of disposable products needed.

Lester sent out an e-mail to all the hospitals’ employees informing them of the changes to be made that day. “I couldn’t believe the response. It just floored me,” Lester says. “Everyone was saying how great it was and that we needed to continue this. I realized it was a hot topic nationally, but the outcry from the staff here was amazing.”

So Lester approached the COO to find out if he could expand on what the department had done on Earth Day. Lester was given the go-ahead as long as he kept costs down.

“The sad thing about most of these biodegradable products is that they are three times as expensive,” Lester says. Because of the cost differential, Lester knew he had to significantly reduce the amount of disposable products used in the cafeterias. He brought in china and stainless steel cutlery, which the department already had in stock because the products are used for patient service. “Since our dishwashing soap is already biodegradable, we felt washing a few extra dishes each day would not make much of an impact,” Lester says.

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

The University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., will soon switch over from magnetic strip-based student ID cards to chip-based ones, The Observer reports.

Along with being more secure, the new cards will allow students easier access to dining halls, enabling them to simply tap their cards on a reader to gain entrance. Students will also be able to add flex points and Domer Dollars—which can be used at eateries on and off campus—to their accounts via a mobile app.

The new cards are expected to be available by the time school begins next fall.

Read the full story...

Industry News & Opinion

University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn., has replaced a fajita bar in one of its dining halls with a superfoods bar, Tommie Media reports.

Aiming to provide more options for athletes and students with dietary restrictions, the new bar offers diners a choice of protein with a variety of toppings, such as beans, fruit, couscous and quinoa.

The superfoods bar has made a few appearances on campus since it was first tried for the school’s football players last summer.

“Word of mouth is getting out, and every day I get a few more people,” Ryan Carlson, a cook at the...

Sponsored Content
gluten free diet

From Stouffer’s.

A large part of menuing allergen-friendly cuisine is deciding which gluten-free items to serve.

In particular, college dining hall operators must decide whether to make gluten-free items in-house or to order gluten-free items from a manufacturer. Some factors to consider are: the size of the university, the demand for gluten-free options,and the ability to have separate gluten-free storage and workspaces in the university dining hall kitchen.

According to FoodService Director , 77% of college and university operators purchase their gluten-free...

Industry News & Opinion

Reading Hospital in West Reading, Pa., is using robots to help deliver patient meals, BCTV reports.

The eight robots, named TUGs, will be used to transport meals from the hospital’s nutrition services department to patient floors at Reading HealthPlex for Advanced Surgical & Patient Care.

Moving at three miles per hour, the robots will follow preprogrammed routes to the HealthPlex, where room ambassadors will remove room service carts from the TUGs and deliver them to patients. The TUGs will then return to nutrition services with dirty dishes for cleaning.

The...

FSD Resources