Meals that Heal: Halton Healthcare Sources Local Food

Everybody wins when Halton Healthcare buys local. “Many of our fruits and vegetables come from just down the road in Niagara,” explains Marianne Katusin, Food Service Manager, “so they arrive fresh and tasty for our patients.” Local is also good for the environment. The short 100 kilometre journey from Niagara means a truckload of vegetables has a carbon footprint of just 160 kilograms. Shipping the same vegetables from suppliers in Georgia, USA spews 2.4 tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere… about the same weight as a full-grown rhino.

Farm to bedside is a growing phenomenon in healthcare but it takes work and commitment. The new Oakville Trafalgar Memorial Hospital (opened in 2015) was designed to accommodate a full commercial kitchen. This allows the food services team to prepare tasty, healthy meals from scratch and serve them to patients in all three Halton Healthcare hospitals (Georgetown, Milton and Oakville). Marianne is also a member of the national Nourish co-hort, which shares local food learning with professionals across the health sector and finds innovative ways to make meals that heal. The local food work at Halton Healthcare has also benefited from two grants from the Ontario Greenbelt Fund.

So what’s on the local food menu at Halton Healthcare? There’s all-local homemade soup, casseroles made with local ingredients, egg sandwiches made with Ontario eggs and even Christmas turkeys. The Halton Healthcare food services team has celebrated this remarkable progress with two local food expos this year, spotlighting the suppliers who empower the team’s efforts to create nutritious and delicious meals for patients. The latest food expo drew a crowd of 1,000 people who enjoyed samples of the food offered to patients, including potatoes from Bradford and turkeys from Waterloo.

“We’re gratified at the positive response we’re receiving from suppliers, patients, families and staff as well as the support for local food in hospitals,” says Marianne. “Nutrition has a tremendously important role in the healing process and tasty and fresh food helps patients enjoy their meal options so much more.”

What’s next for Halton Healthcare? Meal-sized soups are coming and you might even see a garden at one of their hospitals sometime soon.

By Adeline Cohen and Halton Healthcare