Healthcare is one of the biggest contributors to food waste in United States. While food costs continue to rise, the hospital segment alone generates about 170,000 tons of food waste annually and environmental emissions aren’t the only concerns healthcare foodservice executives should have. High meal returns can impact your readmission rate and patient satisfaction scores, which is exactly why foodservice operators must take proactive measures toward systematic planning and execution strategies.
Assessing your food waste is an essential part of the planning phase. You have to know the amount of food that is thrown away before moving forward. The most accurate way to do this is by integrating effective waste assessment software to calculate the food waste. LeanPath is an example of such software. Gundersen Health System in La Crosse, WI, implemented LeanPath to measure food waste. They began with identifying the food waste baseline and later established the average waste per year, which was approximately 24 tons, yes 24 tons! With the ability to track waste they were able to track cost as well. After about 7 months, the facility was able to reduce pre-consumer food waste by more than 50% by weight, which translated to $475/week or $25,000/year.
“With the software we can look at what happened one week vs. another and look at what our strategy is to reduce it the next time around. We download data every Monday morning and print out reports so everyone knows how we did for the last week,” says Mark Hutson, Administrative Director of Foodservice.
Find the Cause
After narrowing down the amount of food waste, you should examine the cause. For instance, if the reason is food preparation, it is time to revisit your current menu, recipes and cooking process. You may be able to resolve it with a few tweaks or you may be dealing with more serious matter such as staff skills. If the challenge is food experience, you may want to conduct a survey of staff or patients to understand the reason. Whatever the main cause, it’s critical to know in order to plan for a solution.
Heritage Operation Group in Illinois determined the main cause behind its food waste was the lack of temperature maintenance on hot meals—which is the primary complaint by patients in healthcare overall. To combat this challenge, the facility looked into equipment that would hold foods hot longer and for this reason switched from one-at-the-time heating unit to Cambro Camduction Heating System. As a result they saw an increase in higher patient satisfaction and reduction in food waste.
“With our previous heating unit, it only took the unit to go down once and there was no way to get the heat back up again. But then we were introduced to Cambro’s Camduction. With the Camduction, if one unit went down, we still had 19 to work with. Since we switched to Camduction, we have noticed the difference in our supported living where they are more independent and alert. They see that we have made the change to a system that looks less institutional….more restaurant-like and they are very pleased,” says Debra Miller, VP of Dietary.
Healthcare foodservice operators are often concerned about how to make ends meet between rising food costs and keeping up with the demands on higher food quality. With innovative software and equipment solutions that are available today, managing waste and planning toward a resolution that can positively impact your patient satisfaction scores is possible to accomplish.
Take control over your waste by reaching out to your local Cambro Healthcare Specialist.