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 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