Capital Health wants to help serve its community beyond the walls of its hospitals. To that end, the New Jersey health system has teamed up with foodservice provider Sodexo to make strides in ending food waste.
The initiative was sparked, in part, by the president of the company, who wants to help support the greater neighborhood, said Steve Vincent, general manager of food and nutrition for Capital Health.
“And it's part of our president of Capital Health, Al Maghazehe’s, mission is the neighborhood community initiative to help support the Trenton neighborhood,” said Vincent.
As a part of the mission, Capital Health and Sodexo have partnered with Share My Meals, which is a Trenton area program that distributes surplus meals to local families in need. Through the program, any leftover food that is still safe to be served is repackaged and redistributed. The program also allows the team to donate food that they may not be able to serve anymore.
“When things go out of date for us, they actually have two additional days as per the federal guidelines of the Share My Meals program, that they can still be served,” said Vincent. “So, whereas things we would normally have to throw out after three days, we can package, pick up that afternoon and it distributed either the same day or the next day.”
Now, the team is working on an in-house program to support the food insecure in the surrounding areas.
“Which are typically the kind of the lower paid people in the hospitals, environmental services and food services,” said Vincent.
First participants must qualify through the Share My Meals program. Then twice a week, participants will come by to pick up bags of food filled with leftover food from the hospitals as well as food brought in from the Share My Meals program.
In addition to donating surplus food, the team at Capital Health also monitors food waste through a program called Leanpath. Through this program, which the team launched about six months ago, all waste is monitored and measured.
“All of our staff are trained in how to capture all of the weight of the product and everything is captured specific to what the waste is, whether it be normal trash waste, having to do with skins and things or whether it's leftover sausage, or bacon from a breakfast meal,” said Vincent.
After weighing the waste, the food gets packaged up and donated. If the food has expired, then it gets tossed and measured through the waste management program.
The team also reviews the findings of the Leanpath program on a regular basis, always looking for ways to improve.
At first, Vincent said there was concern that the program would be too overwhelming for staff.
“How am I going to get all these people to put stuff on the scale every day, right? How are we going to make sure that everybody's capturing it?” he said.
But staff was quick to get on board, especially as they learned the importance of the program.
“We were really taken aback by how engaged everybody was right off the bat, knowing especially that the food was going back into their community that they live in,” said Vincent.
Vincent said he believes the community tie in is part of the reason why employees were so willing to try out the program.
“I think the fact that we've taken a step beyond how much we're just throwing away, and repurposed into the Share My Meals program, so that it is going back into the community,” said Vincent.