Jersey hospital saves on food waste with in-house digester & cooking oil taker

The hospital also uses electronic medical records and biodegradable cups and plates to go green.

Oct. 28—Food waste at Hackensack University Medical Center doesn’t go to a landfill.

Almost all of the food that patients or people eating in the cafeteria don’t eat is rolled on a cart to a stainless steel box in the corner of the hospital kitchen.

The staff opens a panel on the machine, unleashing a putrid smell, and dumps the food inside. Inside, there are woodchips and about two pounds of liquidy substance filled with four strains of micro-organisms.

The organisms digest the food at a rate of almost 100 pounds an hour, Ken Vervoordt, operations manager for Hackensack University Medical Center, said. Unlike human digestion, the end result is basically water, which goes right into the drainage system.

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Ideas and Innovation
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On every other Thursday of our four-week cycle menu, we allow K-8 students to pick the entree choices. The media center specialist for each of the participating schools sets up the list of entree items on a computer for voting, and the winning entrees are given to cafeteria managers two weeks before the upcoming month to put into production. Students really like this, as it promotes ownership of the menu.

Ideas and Innovation
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We highlight our North Carolina products on a large chalkboard in our dining halls, and also list any produce we bring in from our own agroecology farm. It helps tell our story—positive and local.

Ideas and Innovation
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We have raised garden beds that residents can reserve and use to grow their own plants. Whenever a resident brings me fresh produce from their own garden, I try and incorporate it into a dish. If I do end up using it, I will display the resident’s name and what the produce was next to the dish on the menu.

Ideas and Innovation
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Curriculum for the mobile teaching kitchen centers around a single kid-friendly recipe, using ingredients that can provide talking points for nutrition, sustainability and food origins. “The recipe is the lesson,” Saidel says. “Every ingredient is an opportunity to talk.”

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