The revolt against processed hospital food

An interesting two part series on CBC's National television news program on the problems of processed hospital foods concluded tonight. 

The first story discussed the unhealthy and unappetizing aspects of processed hospital food.  Malnourished patients are at higher risk of developing infections, pressure sores, pneumonia and falling, and take longer to recuperate in hospital.  Moreover, hospitals serving highly processed foods sends the wrong message to patients and the public, the story suggests.

Tonight's story reports that one large Ontario hospital made progress by cooking fresh food in the hospital's kitchen.  In the past, all food preparation and cooking had been outsourced. 

The hospital food managers report they were able to make this change without driving up food costs.  They were also able to reduce the amount of food waste -- which had averaged about 30%.

People don't understand why hospitals should serve unhealthy, processed food, manufactured in distant food factories.  

For tonight's full CBC video, click here.    OCHU's 2009 food charter is below.

OCHU/CUPE Food Charter – September 9, 2009

Ready to use food is creating a junk food culture. Profit driven corporations have focused the bulk of their efforts on creating and marketing highly processed foods that are loaded in salt, fat, sugar, and additives. The growing dominance of these foods has helped create an epidemic of obesity and ill-health. 
For the good of our society, this must stop.

As the junk food culture grew, a major new social movement has arisen in response. Across the world, individuals are creating a fresh and nutritious food culture. Instead of accepting a diet of highly processed or frozen foods that is manufactured and transported over long distances, they are demanding healthy food that is made fresh.
Public sector organizations should help build the movement for fresh, nutritious, and local food. With their size, public sector organizations can be a significant counter to corporate food and a key force in the fresh, nutritious, and local food movement. 
Public sector organizations should:
  • Provide fresh and nutritious food that is prepared in local kitchens, preferably on-site. Food should be prepared and cooked in nearby kitchens, not manufactured in distant factories.
  • Buy local foods wherever possible. Foods shipped thousands of miles create carbon emissions, divert jobs from local economies, and compromise the nutritional content of food. Organizations should buy local food wherever sustainable alternatives can be found or created. 
  • Support local economies. Public sector dollars should be used to create jobs in local communities. Corporate food has created a globalized food system that has dramatically weakened local food infrastructures, local businesses, and has often exploited low wage workers in other countries. Public sector organizations should work with local businesses, farmers and organizations to help rebuild the local food infrastructure. 
  • Use mutually beneficial fair trade for food that cannot be grown or produced in the local area in a sustainable fashion. For such foods, create targets to increase the use of fair trade food, starting with a goal of 20% by 2015.
  • Provide healthy, subsidized school and child care meals as a major way to deal with childhood obesity and ill-health.
  • Provide fresh and nutritious food in cafeterias for staff and the public, rather than corporate junk food. 
  • Meet high quality nutritional standards, as established by independent scientific research.
  • Provide less meat-intensive diets, with more seasonal fruit and vegetables and sustainable fish. 
  • Provide tap water not bottled water.
  • Provide adequate time and resources for cooks and support staff to create and serve fresh and nutritious food. 
  • Adopt a fair wage policy to ensure a committed and highly skilled staff that is dedicated to this vital work. An insecure and untrained staff focused on finding better employment elsewhere is inconsistent with the provision of high quality, fresh and nutritious food.
  • Train staff to a high standard.
  • Work with colleges to develop high quality cooking skills for public sector qualification. 
  • Use vending machines on public sector premises for healthy alternatives, not junk food or pop. 
  • Support public awareness campaigns on healthy diets.
  • Produce annual public reports providing clear information on all aspects of the provision of food by the organization, including: the percentages of fresh, local food; reductions in carbon emissions; progress on waste minimization and recycling; and support for local economies and local food infrastructure.
  • Consider animal welfare, with an aim of using only recognized farm-assured livestock by 2015.
  • Use the precautionary principle. Avoid genetically modified foods until they have been proven safe by independent science. Support strengthened mandatory labeling. 
  • End contracting out of food services to corporations focused on profit.
  • Develop food policies that are focused on the good of all and the not the profit of the few. 
  • Support the development of a national standard for nutritious, local, and freshly made food for public sector organizations and cafeterias.
Above all public sector organization must focus on the contribution of food to health, wellbeing, and the creation of a new food culture that values, fresh, nutritious, and locally prepared foods.

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