Reducing Food Waste in Healthcare Foodservice
Food waste is a key challenge for healthcare operations, and the pressure is on to reduce it. According to Sustainability Roadmap for Hospitals, a program of the American Hospital Association, an estimated 2.5 million pounds of food waste is produced in U.S. hospitals and health systems each day.
Discarding food on such a large scale not only increases greenhouse gas emissions from landfills and wastes agricultural resources, it also negatively impacts your bottom line.
Of course, waste can’t be eliminated entirely from any foodservice operation, but there are steps you can take to minimize it. Let’s look at two areas of your foodservice operation where you can make incremental improvements, through processes and technology, that will have a significant impact.
Leverage back-of-house technology to order and produce only what you need.
Without the right software, a food production operation relies on decisions based on experience or gut instinct. That may serve you well enough for a while; but, as operations grow and demands increase, your success hinges on the effective use of technology.
You need a software system that makes it easy to order exactly what you need by displaying helpful information along the way. Your selected software should allow you to view on-hand balances, on-order balances, par levels, usage history, and lead time to help you make informed ordering decisions. When ordering food items, your system should help you create orders based on your menu plan, focusing on ordering only what is needed, when it’s needed so food is as fresh as possible when served. Items and quantities should automatically calculate based on projected servings and on-hand/on-order balances. Here are some ways your back-of-house software can help you minimize food waste:
- Instead of guessing, let the system convert servings to inventory units and determine the inventory to be pulled for the day based on the scheduled menu plan. These two steps alone will save you valuable time and will reduce waste by helping you pull only the amount of inventory needed.
- Discarded leftovers add up to a considerable amount of waste, but you don’t have to go that route. Reuse your leftovers by adding these items to your inventory and moving them to the next meal or day’s production. For instance, chop up the leftover bacon from breakfast and use it for salad toppings at lunch.
- Reusing leftovers is one thing, but if one of your sites is consistently overproducing, a good system will let you know. This may mean your site manager needs refresher training or perhaps it’s time to implement new procedures. The main point here is that the system has helped you identify and correct the wasteful overproduction.
Monitor food and equipment temperatures to minimize food losses.
The cost of food losses from failed equipment can be huge. A reliable system for monitoring temperature fluctuations can provide an early warning before more costly equipment failures happen.
Monitor refrigerators and freezers to prevent food losses without the need for frequent staff checks or paper documentation. A wireless thermometer automatically monitors temperatures of hot and cold equipment, storerooms, or any other storage location. Temperature readings are sent automatically to a secure online management tool available from any device with a web browser. The system can also send alerts via email, text, or phone if temperatures are not within a preset range.
Ready to learn more? Watch our highly anticipated free webinar, “Good to Best: Principles to Optimize your Food Management Model,” an informative, free webcast that will provide you with the knowledge you need to take your foodservice operation to the next level.
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