​​​Image of the Energy and Environment team
The Energy & Environment team, from left to right: Kady Cowan, Chad Berndt, Michael Kurz, Adeline Cohen B, Ed Rubinstein, Lisa Vanlint, Songyang Hu (Photo: Adeline Cohen)

Eating local starts at UHN

For the first time, UHN staff have the opportunity to work together using crowdsourcing technology and their collective imaginations to solve some of the main challenges in bringing local food to patients – and win delicious local prizes while doing so. The Choices for Ontario Food project aims to imagine a future food system for the organization in the next 3-5 years.  

The health care system in Ontario is a major institutional purchaser of food. UHN alone serves more than 1 million meals every year to patients. Purchasing more food locally contributes to sustainable agriculture in Ontario.

The challenges involved in using more local produce in patient meals are daunting. Solving them will require creativity and new approaches. The team behind the Choices for Ontario Food project hopes to harness the ingenuity of the public and devise solutions to these challenges.

"We are excited to use crowdsourcing for finding ways to overcome difficult, systemic challenges," said Michael Sheeres, executive director of Infrastructure. "We hope crowdsourcing draws attention to nutrition and food because food affects everyone: staff, patients and the public."

Crowdsourcing solutions

An African proverb says: "if you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together."

Crowdsourcing operates on the principle that many people working together can find efficient solutions more quickly than an individual or small group. Users submit their ideas to an online message board where others can comment and vote for the best ones.

Sheeres hopes the community will involve 2,500 participants and generate 400 ideas over the next two months. Not every participant needs to share ideas to contribute; commenting and voting are also valuable.

The Challenges

The Energy and Environment team has identified three challenges they'd like staff, patients and members of the public to help them solve:

  1. What are your soothing foods when sick or injured?
  2. How might we change the way staff think of food in patient care?
  3. How can local Ontario food be used to generate revenue?

Using the platform

Login: First, users go to http://uhn.crowdicity.com/ to sign up with an email address or social media account.

Submit ideas: Once on the platform users can read ideas, comment on them, and submit their own.

Spread the word: hang a poster in your staff room or schedule the Energy & Environment team in for a 10 minute presentation during your next team meeting (contact Adeline Cohen, Food Project Coordinator at adeline.cohen@uhn.ca)

Vote: Voting begins in August. Participants collect points for their idea contribution and active participation. When the project concludes in mid-September, a panel will evaluate ideas based on innovativeness, staff engagement, social impact, business potential, and likelihood of success.

Prizes: Those who submitted the best ideas will receive additional points and the participants with the most points will take home tasty, local prizes.

What's next?

As ideas are suggested, the Energy and Environment team will implement two to four of them in pilot projects such as business plans, feasibility studies or small-scale implementations.

"While some of the best ideas might be too big to implement within the one-year time frame of the project, they may be funded and piloted later," said Sheeres.


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