Around 1.3 million tons of food is lost or wasted globally every year. One of these food waste streams, though not the biggest offender, is the healthcare system.
Wasted food is not usually a topic of discussion when talking about waste generated within the healthcare system, although most other waste streams have received enough attention.
Much of the food waste in hospitals is disposed of through in-sink processes, making it difficult to quantify or measure.
Hospitals represent the majority of waste generated in the healthcare system; according to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), the industry generates 71 percent of the industry’s total waste.
Of this waste, the study consisted of 10-15% food waste, showing that this proportion is lower than the overall waste rate in the United States (about 31% of the total food supply wasted annually). However, the amount of food wasted is still significant and worth the challenge.
an item called “Hospital Food Waste: Reducing Waste and Costs to Our Healthcare System and Environment” provides an in-depth look at the problem and potential solutions.
Pioneered by Deborah A. Saber (PhD, RN, CCRN-K), Roya Aziza (PhD), Stacia Dreyer (PhD), Deborah Sanford (MBA, MSN, RN), and Hannah Nadeau (BSN, RN) The idea that nurse nurses can play a role in the policy changes necessary to reduce the waste generated in the healthcare system.
A summary of the report “emphasizes the need for nurse leaders to inform policymakers about changes that could have a positive impact on the environment while reducing waste streams and hospital spending.”
Studies show that a hospital feeding 6,640 patients per week can generate as much as 480,000 pounds of food. A year’s worth of food. This is equivalent to wasting 24 tons of organic material. This 24 tons of food waste is a direct result of losses during preparation, as well as prepared food not being eaten or rejected by patients.
While not always avoidable, this report shows that with properly implemented measures, most cases can be avoided.
“One Related research Only 28 percent of meals were eaten, and 29 percent were less than half-eaten, the report said. According to the researchers, 39 percent of the food provided to the patients returned to the kitchen as food waste.
Similar rates were observed for non-solid food waste such as infant formula, with the study reporting that “61% of prepared infant formula and 18% – 62% of enteral formula could be wasted.”
This kind of food waste is not only a burden on the environment, unnecessary garbage disposed of in landfills, but also a blow to hospital budgets, which is beneficial for all parties to take a deeper look at this issue.
When surveying the interviews conducted by the researchers, they found that budgeting was the main driver for hospitals to think strategically about food waste.
“Participants frequently indicated that budgetary considerations motivated adoption of food waste reduction practices,” the study reported.
Based on the EPA’s Food Recycling Hierarchy Framework, the study begins to describe a solution to the problem by suggesting more creative uses of food products that are “at risk of spoiling.”
During the preparation phase, interviewees working in some hospitals noticed produce scraps and near-expiration food being discarded, while others from different hospitals described innovative ways to avoid disposing of these foods.
The study provides the following examples: “For example, overripe strawberries were used to make strawberry shortcake, and excess asparagus was blanched and frozen.”
When it comes to leftover food from patients, hospitals dispose of waste in different ways, although one method is more common.
Of the seven hospitals interviewed, five used in-sink disposal for food waste, one used food waste bins collected by a composting company, and the last one had bagged food waste incinerated by a third-party contractor.
It is worth noting that in some cases the returned food was not handled in the same way as most food due to quarantine and contagion concerns.
When it came to hospitals reporting that their disposal systems differed from composting, some reported barriers to switching systems.
“Participants reported barriers to composting, including cost, procedural considerations (eg, moving heavy bins filled with food waste), and hiring and training personnel to manage the food waste process,” the study states.
To achieve a more beneficial and cost-effective approach to food waste, the report sets out to explain the ways in which nurse leaders can make an impact externally.
“Nurse leaders are ideally positioned to develop and implement policies to improve patient health while practicing sustainable development efforts,” it said.
The report recommends using key nurses to implement a food waste donation program, noting that nurses are people who tend to support the health of all people.
“A focus could include widespread food donation programs for the food insecure, aimed at promoting active and healthy lives in this highly vulnerable group,” the study states.
While many useful strategies can be implemented within hospitals, not all changes can be made internally.
To overcome some of the obstacles mentioned above—and other unnamed challenges—policy changes are necessary.
“Outside of healthcare settings, nurse leadership can help drive policy change that encourages donations, reduces barriers to food donations, and protects hospitals from lawsuits,” the study states.