Food waste feeds hospital flowers

Leftovers are processed in pulper into dry mixture that can be added to soil.

Oct. 26—It starts as a blueberry pancake left on the tray of a recovering patient with no appetite for breakfast.

In 12 hours, it will become a dry, brown, dirt-like substance that can be mixed into the soil to help grow plants and flowers on the hospital grounds.

St. Cloud (Minn.) Hospital installed a system about four months ago to grind and dehydrate its food waste. It substantially reduces the amount of waste that ends up in a landfill, instead converting it to a nutrient-rich product beneficial to the environment. It's the first system of its kind in Minnesota and one of a small but growing number in the nation.