University of Iowa Hospitals tackle waste issue

The foodservice department has reduced food waste, increased food donations and implemented a composting program.

Published in Healthcare Spotlight

When a media report slamming the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics for the amount of pre-consumer food waste it generates came out in late 2012, Food and Nutrition Services Director Joan Dolezal knew she couldn’t ignore it. In response, Dolezal and her department not only attacked the problem, they also went beyond the complaints in the report to address other waste issues such as polystyrene usage.

The results have been impressive. In a little more than a year, Dolezal says, the department has reduced the amount of pre-consumer waste generated by nearly half, to about 7%. The 2012 report cited the healthcare system for wasting about 12% of the food it prepares for retail sales. Waste on the patient food side was not measured in the report.

In addition, the department has done away with polystyrene packaging in favor of biodegradable items, all of which can be composted. Dolezal also began a composting program that in one year has diverted 77 tons of waste from the landfill.

Finally, the department worked with the dining services department at the University of Iowa to partner with Table To Table, a local organization that distributes food to food banks and crisis centers. That effort has resulted in a threefold increase in the amount of food donated from the healthcare system—more than 2,300 pounds of food in 2013.

“The report really made us stop and take a look at our procedures,” Dolezal says. “We created a focused initiative to reduce our waste. We put together a team within our department and also worked with the university’s sustainability office to come up with a plan.”

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
coffee shop trailor graphic

A familiar face is coming to the roads of Rutgers University this fall: the Starbucks mermaid. The New Brunswick, N.J.-based school is testing a Starbucks truck throughout the upcoming semester, NJ.com reports . The company began testing trucks on college campuses in 2014, and now has mobile locations at Arizona State University, James Madison University in Virginia, East Carolina University in North Carolina and Sacramento State in California.

The trucks will serve the full lineup of Starbucks beverages that’s available at the outlet’s brick-and-mortar location at Rutgers,...

Industry News & Opinion

A study from Virginia Tech has found a connection between school meal participation and obesity in students. From data that predates the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act , the findings raise questions over whether nutrition standards go far enough.

The research evaluated data from 1998 to 2007, comparing first through eighth grade students who partook in free and reduced-price lunch and those who qualified but opted out. Wen You, associate professor in the Department of Agriculture and Applied Economics at Virginia Tech, says she expected to validate theories that increased breakfast...

Industry News & Opinion

Buffalo Public Schools is turning to local chefs and a little competition to help create new menu items, the Buffalo News reports .

In October, local chefs will compete against each other and a team of seven to 10 students led by chef Bobby Anderson, a former contestant on “Hell’s Kitchen,” to create lunch recipes that comply with USDA nutritional requirements and use seasonal produce sourced locally.

“This Chef Challenge is another way to engage our youth in a fun, friendly competition with local area chefs who can help create appealing recipes that will be incorporated...

Industry News & Opinion

After being sued by the Services Employees International Union over its decision to change vendors from Sodexo to Morrison, the foodservice arm at Mayo Clinic continues to face backlash from staff.

Foodservice employees at the Rochester, Minn., hospital last week handed over a petition 1,200 signatures deep asking that they remain with their current employer, Fox 9 reports .

While a Mayo Clinic spokesperson said that staff will be given similar positions and pay rates under Morrison, SEIU Healthcare Minnesota—the union representing much of the hospital’s foodservice staff—...

FSD Resources