Some hospitals are champions of local food (and some are just the opposite)

While Kingston General Hospital has plowed on with its plan to ship in meals manufactured (and sealed-up) in a distant factory,  other hospitals are starting to make local food in their kitchens.  

St. Joseph's Health Centre management in Guelph recently won an award from Ontario's Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation for being committed to high quality local food.  

The satisfaction rate with food service at St. Joseph's rocketed to 87 per cent, compared to the provincial average of 60 per cent.

The local hospital dietary manager, Leslie Carson, told the Guelph Mercury that the main way she moved the opinion meter on her facility's food was by moving away from ready-prepared food. 

Six years ago, when she arrived at St. Joseph's, ready-prepared food was all it served. Very little food was prepared on site. Good or bad, it had no soul.

Carson says staff took little pride in serving it. Having had nothing to do with its preparation, they had no ownership in it.

"I've found ready-prepared food to be expensive," she says. "Try eating it all the time. You'll go broke." Plus, with a lot of it being imported, the supply is vulnerable.

Thanks to the local-food movement maturing and distribution becoming more sophisticated, she's found a great deal of meat and produce can now be sourced from around Guelph.

As a result, about three-quarters of the 1,000 meals served by the facility today are prepared and cooked onsite by professional staff.

Local hospital union president Bonnie Weckworth confirms "we prepare up to 75% of all our food."  

Unfortunately, not many other local CUPE hospital presidents can make that claim.  But a survey of local CUPE presidents done by OCHU last year confirms that among those who can,  food quality is consistently reported as high.