Dutch hospitals can lower food waste by half: study

Dutch hospitals can lower their food waste by half by switching to a more modern way of supplying food for patients, according to a study by Wagenignen University that compared the way hospitals in the Netherlands provide food to their patients for the first time, NOS reports.

Hospitals that cook food for their patients in a traditional way - with a kitchen staff that cooks the food fresh each day - have about 40 percent of their hot meals end up iin the trash, according to the study. In hospitals that use a more modern way, that is about 50 percent less. 

The Gelre hospitals in Apeldoorn and Zutphen, for example, switched to a different way of providing food two years ago. "Previously we cooked fresh here and gambled on how many people would eat, how many fish and how many omelet. Ultimately you had a lot left over", Hendri Markvoort, head of feeding at the hospitals, said to NOS. 

In 2014 the hospitals switched to frozen meals. This held a number of advantages. The exact number of needed meals are heated up, which means less food in the trash as well as less staff needed. "It saves the hospital several tons in costs annually", according to Markvoort.

The frozen meals are also of better quality than the hospital staff could manage themselves, and they are slowly reheated on special hot plates, not just thrown in a microwave. This means that the patients are more willing to eat, because the food is better. Patients can also take longer to decide what they want to eat. At the Gelre hospitals a patient can take until 3:00 p.m. to place a dinner order. They can also eat when they're ready, not only at hospital-set dinner times.

Having patients take in more food more quickly also aids in their recovery, according to researcher Joost Snels. "It promotes recovery. Hospitals should actually see the meal as part of the treatment to get better."