Environmental sustainability of hospital foodservices across the food supply chain: a systematic review

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Hospitals have a responsibility to support human health, and given the link between human and environmental health, hospitals should consider their environmental impacts. Hospital foodservices can negatively affect the environment at every stage of the food supply chain (production/procurement, distribution, preparation, consumption, and waste management/disposal). Objective: To systematically identify and synthesize the following across the hospital patient food/nutrition supply chain: environmental and associated economic impacts of foodservice; outcomes of strategies that aim to improve the environmental sustainability of foodservice; and perspectives of patients, staff, and stakeholders on environmental impacts of foodservice and strategies that aim to improve the environmental sustainability of foodservice. Methods: Eight electronic databases (ie, Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature Plus, Embase via Ovid, Global Health, National Health Service Economic Evaluation Database, Ovid Medline, ProQuest Environmental Science Collection, Scopus, and Web of Science) were searched from database inception to November 2018 for original research conducted across any stage of the hospital food supply chain (from production/procurement to waste management/disposal) that provides food/nutrition to patients, with no restrictions on language or study design. Titles/abstracts then full texts were screened independently by two authors. The Mixed Methods Appraisal Tool was used for quality appraisal for included studies. Data were synthesized narratively. Results: From 29,655 records identified, 80 studies met eligibility criteria. Results were categorized into production/procurement (n=12), distribution (n=0), preparation (n=6), consumption (n=49), waste management/disposal (n=8), and multiple food supply chain aspects (n=5). The environmental impact most widely explored was food waste, with many studies reporting on food waste quantities, and associated economic losses. Strategies focused on reducing food waste by increasing patients’ intake through various foodservice models. Perspectives identified a shared vision for sustainable foodservices, although there are many practical barriers to achieving this. Conclusion: The literature provides examples across the hospital food supply chain that demonstrate how environmental sustainability can be prioritized and evaluated and the opportunities for credentialed nutrition and dietetics practitioners to contribute. Future studies are warranted, particularly those measuring environmental impacts and testing the effects of sustainable strategies in the distribution, preparation, and waste management stages.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)825-873
Number of pages49
JournalJournal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2020


  • Environmental sustainability
  • Food supply chain
  • Foodservices
  • Hospital

Cite this