Raising bees a breeze for two New Jersey hospitals

Overlook Medical Center and The Valley Hospital have established rooftop apiaries.

Published in Healthcare Spotlight

Two hospitals in north central New Jersey, working independently, have taken the same approach to sustainability by adding bee hives at their facilities. The goal at both hospitals—Overlook Medical Center in Summit and The Valley Hospital in Ridgewood—is the same: to promote the use of local foods, help support a dwindling bee population and create some opportunities for retail sales.

Dawn Cascio, director of food and nutrition services at Valley, says the hospital installed two colonies of bees—about 20,000 bees in total—on the roof of the healthcare system’s Lucklow Pavilion in Paramus, about a mile from the main hospital.

“The hospital is trying to be as green as possible and this fits in with our goals for sustainability,” Cascio says. Valley is one of about 500 hospitals that are part of the Healthier Hospitals Initiative, and this project is part of that effort.

Cascio says purchasing the bees cost the hospital “less than 1% of our overall food budget,” adding that her administrators were more receptive to the idea than she expected. The biggest challenge actually came from the hospital’s legal department, which wanted to make sure there were no unresolved liability issues before giving Cascio the go-ahead.

At the start of the project, the bees are being fed sugar water, which they will use to create the beeswax that supports the hive. Once the hive is established, the bees will  fly out in search of plants from which they would extract nectar. Where the bees forage will determine the flavor of the honey, Cascio adds.

The bees—which are expected to number about 60,000 by the end of the season—are expected to produce about 100 pounds of honey this year. Of that, 30 pounds will be harvested. The rest will be left for the bees to feed on over the winter. Much of the harvest will be used in patient foodservice, with the rest being packaged and sold in the hospital gift shop.

“We will use honey in a lot of our sauces, dressings and desserts, as well as infused waters,” Cascio says. “Our chef, Joseph Graziano, likes to balance the sweet and savory in his dishes.”

When Cascio was planning her project, one of the people with whom she spoke was Michael Atanasio, manager of food and nutrition at Overlook Medical Center. “Michael thought it was a cool idea,” she says—so cool, he decided to follow suit.

“I try to stay connected in the industry, and everyone here, including our president, is very committed to the environment,” Atanasio says. “I knew Dawn was doing this and I had also seen it in trade magazines.”

Overlook’s two hives sit on a lower roof of the hospital, one that is level with the building’s cafeteria. In addition to customers being able to see the beehives while they enjoy a meal, Atanasio has set up a webcam so people can also log in to watch the bees.

Like Cascio, Atanasio expects to incorporate part of his harvest into a variety of recipes. He also plans to sell some in the gift shop and he wants to use beeswax to create a lip balm and lotion, which he also will sell at retail locations.

“This can also be a cool tool for education,” he adds. “We want to set up some community projects like bringing kids up to see the bees. My goal is to add at least one hive per year until I run out of space.”

In addition to supplying the two hospitals with honey, Overlook’s and Valley’s projects may serve another purpose: to help repopulate the species. Since 2006, honeybees have been dying off in large numbers for unknown reasons.

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

The School District of Philadelphia and Baltimore City Public Schools are the latest districts in the Urban School Food Alliance to switch to compostable plates.

The move to the eco-friendlier products will save 19 million polystyrene products from landfills, according to a news release .

Schools often use polystyrene products due to their low cost. Polystyrene trays cost on average around 4 cents apiece, while compostable plates cost an average of 12 cents each. The Urban School Food Alliance’s collective buying power enabled them to create a compostable plate that costs...

Managing Your Business
allergies

Guy Procopio got a taste of the future when Michigan State University hosted a Boy Scout event in 2015. Out of 10,000 participants at the East Lansing, Mich., campus, Procopio, the director of dining services, received 1,400 requests to meet special dietary needs, including a wide spectrum of allergies, gluten intolerance or insensitivity, and other new or unusual hyper-specialized diets.

This dining trend isn’t letting up, at least in America: Food allergies in children increased approximately 50% from 1997 to 2011. They now affect one in 13 children in the United States,...

Industry News & Opinion

Students of Broward County Public Schools in Florida were treated to a special meal by celebrity chef Aria Kagan during lunch last week.

The chef and former contestant on “The Next Food Network Star” prepared her farm-fresh pesto panini in front of students at McNicol Middle School in Hollywood, Fla.

Her visit was part of the district’s Chefs Move to Broward initiative, through which a chef from nonprofit Wellness in the Schools visits district cafeterias each month to prepare a healthy meal. The chef then teaches cafeteria staff how to make the dish so it can be...

Managing Your Business
woman alone in kitchen

In a post-Harvey Weinstein world, there’s an awful anticipation over which star’s worst-kept secret will be outed next. The outpouring of claims of sexual harassment and abuse helped popularize the #MeToo social media campaign, encouraging women to share their stories and spurring allegations against upwards of 60 high-profile men. In October, the movement’s momentum hit the foodservice industry. Since, behemoths such as Mario Batali, John Besh and Todd English were forced to confront accusations of alleged sexual harassment or misconduct.

For many women, the scope of the industry’...

FSD Resources