Every day, the chefs at Providence Care Hospital prepare up to 900 meals.
That’s three entrées a day, plus snacks, for 270 patients.
“We’re one of a few hospitals where everything is made on site, with the exception of some dessert items,” said Paula Ormsbee, Food, Logistics, Nutrition, and Transportation Director.
And this isn’t your average hospital food.
In May, Ormsbee and her team rolled out a new menu for the hospital based on updated recommendations from Canada’s Food Guide.
The dishes feature whole grains, traditional and plant-based proteins, and plenty of fruits and vegetables.
“We’re one of the first hospitals in Canada to do this,” said Ormsbee.
“We don’t put salt in our food, we use different kinds of spices and the entrées are much healthier for our patients.”
Enchiladas, spinach pesto penne and roasted vegetable pizza are just some of the delectable dishes.
“We offer two choices, and normally one of the entrées will be plant-based,” added Ormsbee.
“And we’re constantly tweaking and making adjustments, based on what patients like.”
Like any full production kitchen, there’s bound to be leftovers.
Providence Care is passionate about decreasing its environmental footprint, that’s why it composts the extra food from the hospital site.
But the organization felt it could do more.
“FoodRescue.ca is an online platform that facilitates the donations of surplus food. It basically takes the leg work out of donating,” explained Geoff Hendry, Loving Spoonful’s Food Rescue Coordinator.
Created by Second Harvest in Toronto, FoodRescue.ca is managed locally by Loving Spoonful.
Hendry says it makes food donation more efficient.
“Say you’re a restaurant and you have 10 pounds of vegetarian chili. You go to FoodRescue.ca, create a post and an offer, and an email is sent to all the agencies in the area that have food programs. They then claim your offer and are responsible for picking it up at a designated time and place.”
Not only are you helping feed people in need, added Hendry, but you’re also helping the environment.
“You’re diverting food that would otherwise go to landfill,” said Hendry.
“And anytime you’re reducing the amount of waste going into landfill you’re making an impact.”
Ormsbee signed up Providence Care Hospital in July.
Every day, the untouched food from the on-unit dining rooms is packed up into reusable containers and refrigerated.
Leftover meals from the Limestone Terrace Cafeteria, operated by Sodexo, are also donated.
There are six different agencies that pick up the surplus food, seven days a week.
They include: In From the Cold Emergency Shelter, Kingston Interval House, Elizabeth Fry Kingston, South Frontenac Community Services, and the Salvation Army in Gananoque.
The Kingston Youth Shelter picks up every Tuesday.
“I can’t tell you how grateful we are,” said Denise Lamb, Manager of Youth Services.
“We have up to 26 kids we’re feeding every day at the shelter, and we have two transition homes, so our food budget is extremely low.”
Lamb says Providence Care’s donated dishes can last up to three days.
And while she appreciates all donations from the community, she says she was blown away by just how nutritious the meals from the hospital were.
“We weren’t expecting such amazing, balanced and healthy food,” beamed Lamb.
“Our kids need this type of nutrition and when they see this restaurant quality food, it brings such joy. It makes them feel worthy, that they are cared for and are loved.”
“90 percent of the food we’re getting from Providence Care is prepared,” said Hendry.
“It’s mostly vegetables, meat and protein. We don’t often get a lot of these types of donations. The cost of eating healthy is significant, so the healthy food from the hospital is really helping under-served communities.”
“It gives you that great feeling that not only are we serving folks that are in need in the hospital, but also in the community,” said Ormsbee.
“The staff in the kitchen are so excited to be a part of this and to help make a difference in the community. And maybe those folks won’t end up in the hospital if they’re getting that good food and good nutrition.”
And this is just the start.
Ormsbee says the organization is committed to FoodRescue.ca for the long-term, and will also be rolling out the program at its long-term care home, Providence Manor, in the fall.
Lamb can’t help but smile at the news.
“Look at all the mouths you’re helping to feed,” Lamb said, holding back tears.
“We always talk about how it takes a village to raise a child. We’re so grateful that Providence Care is part of our village.”