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Innovative Scarborough hospital patient food program should not be victim of cuts

TORONTO, ON — Based on recent reports, a forced cost-cutting merger between the Rouge Valley Health System and The Scarborough Hospital may mean the loss of a much lauded and innovative fresh, local food patient food initiative. For the last two years the Scarborough hospital has overhauled patient food menus using locally grown food cooked in-house at the hospital kitchen. The fresh patient food program replaced a menu of imported, frozen and unappetizing meals, which are, for the most part the norm at underfunded hospitals province-wide.

“This fresh food program is heralded as a watershed in hospital food reform. It should not be cut – the victim of provincial government health reforms that have very little to do with what’s best for patient outcomes. If serving freshly made, wholesome, local food to very sick hospital patients was a priority for this government, it would happen,” says Michael Hurley, the president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU).

On April 9, 2013, speaking on the record in the Ontario Legislature on her government’s Local Food Act (Bill 36), which promotes the development of new markets for locally-grown Ontario food, Premier Kathleen Wynne said the following:

“We remain committed to bringing more local food into Ontario’s municipalities, long term care homes, hospitals and schools.”

We’ll lead by example, through an Ontario government policy requiring ministries to consider local food for procurements ….

The Premier is also on record as saying “if public dollars are being spent, we want them spent on local produce.”

While increasing the amount of local food bought or funded by Ontario ministries is a key component of the Local Food Act, “unfortunately, the reality is otherwise,” says Hurley. “More and more hospitals are replacing real food with factory food cooked in distant locations and shipped in over the highways. This policy is the opposite of local.”

He encouraged Premier Wynne to not sidestep responsibility for the potential destruction of the fresh food initiative at the Scarborough hospital by ensuring local food initiatives are funded at hospitals, schools and universities.

“If the Premier wants family farms to survive and grocery stores to buy in to stocking more locally grown Ontario food, her government should be making choices that are consistent with a fresh, local food policy for the broader public sector,” says Hurley.

For the last few years OCHU has teamed up with local farmers’ groups on local hospital food initiatives. A local food campaign to keep patient meals at Kingston General Hospital from being contracted out to a factory operation in Mississauga and procure food from local farmers garnered support from over 20,000 people.


For more information please contact:

Michael Hurley, President, Ontario Council of Hospital Unions/CUPE 416-884-0770