What does it take for one local apple to land on a patient’s tray? Watch the video to find out the complex life cycle of local food at UHN. (Video: The Choices for Ontario Food Project)
​Local Food Week is June 1-7 in Ontario. Established by Ontario Premier, Kathleen Wynne, through the passing of the Local Food Act in 2013, the Local Food Week celebrates our 37,000 farm families with events across Ontario. Find out more about what the Local Food Act means for UHN in this re-posted article on the Choices for Ontario Food project.  ​

Not as simple as tree to tray

What does it take to serve local food to patients?

It's not as simple as you may think. UHN serves more than 1 million meals every year to patients, preparing six trays per minute; 360 trays per hour.

The Choices for Ontario Food Project, led by UHN's Energy & Environment team in partnership with Nutrition Services, began in April 2014. The project aims to identify short and long-term opportunities for providing more Ontario food to patients. The team analyzed the flows of food and information, decision processes, and research data related to the delivery of food to patients.

"At UHN, we have always taken patient nutrition very seriously, but this project shows the true complexity of our food system," says Scott McIntaggart, Vice President, Toronto General Hospital.

"Serving more Ontario food to our patients is important and we should be able to do it."

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​The project team used a system change and user-centered design approach to investigate the complex question of local food in hospitals, and engaged with more than 700 members of the UHN community.

Through this broad exploration, the project team found that our food ecosystem at UHN is very complex. Food safety requirements, efficiency and budget are not the only challenges to providing more Ontario food to patients.

What is fed to patients depends on a combination of factors, including: availability through our procurement system, nutritional content, accessibility considerations and patient satisfaction. Ontario food must meet our criteria to enter our food ecosystem, which is not always easy for small and medium sized local producers.  

Local food in a hospital setting: How it works

UHN offers 84 diet options, accounting for patient health and nutritional needs, for example: texture modification, personal preferences and allergies. When a patient is admitted at UHN, a specific diet is ordered for them by their physician or clinical dietitian.

The nutritional information of the local food product is then entered into UHN's system and processes which diets it can be incorporated into. Before each meal, a tray ticket is printed with the patient's name and appropriate foods for their diet. Once the tray has been assembled, it goes into the retherm cart and is taken to nutrition centres on patient floors for consumption.

"The Choices for Ontario Food project captured attention across a very diverse group at UHN and beyond," says Ed Rubinstein, Director, Energy & Environment.

"It was great to see so many people enthusiastic about such an important topic."

Want to get involved? Join the Talkin' Food Team

The Choices for Ontario Food Project Team encourages you to catch up with the project by reading their case study, and joining the Talkin' Food Team to participate in future community conversations.​

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