Food Waste

Health Care Context: 

Each year, approximately one third of the world’s food - nearly 3 trillion tonnes - goes unconsumed; the Canadian Healthcare system contributes to this figure significantly.  A study and analysis from the international value chain showed that large hospitals, such as Toronto or Hamilton General Hospitals, generate close to one tonne of food waste per day. Approximately 50% of total food placed at patient’s bedside ends up as waste; in 2010, this resulted in $45 million dollars in wasted food, not accounting for service and labour costs to produce and prepare the food itself (Gooch, Chong). 

Many factors are responsible for the exorbitant amount of food waste in Canadian hospitals:

  • Poor food quality
  • Advanced ordering of meals from external providers, despite rapidly changing dietary needs of patients, scheduling of procedures, discharges, transfers, etc. (Chong).
  • Scheduled meal deliveries, regardless of whether the patient is hungry, asleep, or otherwise ready and willing to eat at that time (Chong). 
  • Lack of adequate alternatives for patients with dietary restrictions
  • Standardized portion sizes
  • Inability to customize meal orders, allowing patients can remove items they may not want

As many hospitals do not have the means to prepare the amount of food required by their patients, most outsource meal preparation. In the interest of cost, most of these large corporations are not sourcing food locally, so the GHG emissions associated with food transport are enormous. Taken together, the amount of food being wasted and the emissions and financial costs associated with food waste management leave much room for improvement in reducing the time, money, and resources spent on hospital food procurement and service.



Chong, 2016. Food Waste Crisis and The Canadian Healthcare System-An Analysis.  

Ginsberg, 2015. HHS Decides to Outsource Hospital Food Service. Newpaper Article. Hamilton Spectator. 

Gooch and Felfel, 2014. "27 Billion Dollars" Revisited - The Cost of Canada's Annual Food Waste. Value Chain Management International Inc.


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