Sustainability

Hospitals in Maine can do more to reduce food waste, UMaine study finds

The research team conducted interviews with hospital nutrition services at seven facilities across the state.
Food getting tossed away.
Six out of seven of the surveyed hospitals did not compost food waste. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

A recent study by the University of Maine found that with the right support, hospitals can do more to reduce their food waste.

The survey found several areas for improvement in the food preparation systems in Maine hospitals to better manage waste.

The survey found that food is typically disposed of using sink disposals, which makes it difficult to quantify how much food is wasted. Six out of seven of the surveyed hospitals did not compost food waste due to barriers such as cost, procedural considerations and hiring challenges. Additionally, the hospitals rejected imperfect produce that could have been used in meals like soups and sauces.

The hospitals surveyed recognized food donation as a viable way to reduce waste but said it was not widely practiced because of legal concerns. The researchers suggested that a contract between hospital management and a food bank organization could help address such concerns.

“The findings are important because they identify distinct barriers to food donation, which could help the community while reducing waste,” said Deborah Saber, who led the research team, in a statement. “Programs to reduce all waste, including food waste, have become a priority for health care organizations. We hope that the findings in this study will provide information to increase efforts toward environmental sustainability.”

The research team used EPA’s Food Recovery Hierarchy framework to analyze how hospitals in Maine process food waste. The team conducted interviews with hospital nutrition services at seven facilities across the state.

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