Sustainability in Practice: Hospital Makes Meatless Philly Cheese Steak

Rehab center reinvents a classic.

By Becky Schilling, Editor

At 96-bed Magee Rehabilitation in Philadelphia, customers are learning to love meatless options, including a meat-free version of the sandwich that bears the city’s name—a Philly Cheese Steak.

Last year Paul Carmine, director of hospitality services for the hospital, started a Meatless Monday program. Although customers could get meat options, most of the day’s entrées were meatless. “We were finding that people were willing to try some meatless options, but they were trying things they were familiar with and not necessarily the healthier options,” Carmine says. “If we had jumbo ravioli on Meatless Monday they were all about that.”

To counter that, Carmine and his team decided not only to offer Meatless Monday but to offer a high-quality, healthy meatless option every day. Customers can now get meatless items such as a Buffalo tofu hoagie, hummus wraps, and a sweet potato and black bean burrito. Another daily option is the meatless Philly Cheese Steak, which substitutes seitan for beef.

Carmine says once the department made the shift, sales for healthier, meatless options increased. Carmine is also purchasing as much local produce as possible, and he recently made the switch to cage-free eggs.

Carmine says finding sources for local items is his biggest challenge. “Unfortunately you sort of get stuck with what suppliers can offer you,” he says. “I could order cage-free eggs from my main distributor, but it’s a special order so it will take three weeks.”

Carmine has found one good source of local items: the Common Market Philadelphia, a consolidator and distributor of local foods. Carmine purchases his produce, cage-free eggs, seitan and tofu from the Common Market.