A better future for hospital food?
Roger Mortlock - 21 December 2011
It’s slightly odd that those institutions designed to make us well can sometimes make us sick. In an age where so many of the chronic diseases of our time (from cancer to diabetes, and from obesity to cardiovascular diseases) are diet related, its completely bonkers that so many of our hospitals are serving unhealthy food. And with over 9 million meals left untouched every year in hospitals (and most of those sent to landfill) it seems that many patients agree. As we said in our First Aid for Hospital Food report earlier this year, ‘The story of the failure to provide tasty, healthy food in British hospitals is a result of an indefensible failure by those in charge of hospitals to understand the basic importance of good food to good health’.
But just in time for Christmas, last week we held a celebration of the ‘best of hospital food’ at Clarence House. It was great to meet so many hospital staff from across the country doing great work to improve their hospital’s food. What they are doing to supply more local, fresh and organic food is truly inspiring. Many of those who attended the event last Thursday were from hospitals that were featured as success stories in First Aid for Hospital Food.
We heard about how improvements in quality were made, without inflating hospital budgets. In fact, a significant number of hospitals were found to be already sourcing local, seasonal, organic food, cutting their food miles, boosting their local economies and serving healthier, fresher meals to their patients within tight budgets. In some cases the switch actually saved money.
As our Royal Patron, HRH The Prince of Wales said in his closing remarks, 'The drive to improve hospital food needs real leadership. There were just two examples back in 2008 and now there are over a dozen. I hope that in the years to come we will encourage many more to follow the remarkable achievements of all those in this room.'
This is a great foundation to build on – and based on the enthusiasm in the room, there’s loads of potential to share what these trailblazers have done. An exciting project to get our teeth into in 2012!
Roger Mortlock is Deputy Director of the Soil Association. His previous career - which included stints in education, public health and even a spell in the arts - could be described as eclectic; if 'eclectic' is latin for 'all over the place'. His defence is that the only thing that links it all together is a commitment to positive health and well-being; something right at the heart of the founding vision of the Soil Association. He works on campaigns, policy and our programmes, including chairing the Food for Life Partnership.
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