Environmentally sustainable hospital foodservices: drawing on staff perspectives to guide change

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Abstract

Foodservice is a key contributor to environmental impacts of the healthcare sector, in particular hospitals. Driving towards sustainable solutions in foodservices can bring financial and social benefits, whilst allowing hospitals to position themselves as leaders towards a sustainable food system and healthcare sector. Such a change depends on those working directly or indirectly with foodservices. Staff possess valuable knowledge, ideas, motivation and responsibility for improving the environmental sustainability of the foodservice system. The aim of this study was to explore the perspectives of staff working across the hospital food supply chain towards: (1) sustainable practices in hospital food provision; (2) existing barriers and enablers; and (3) recommendations for implementing sustainable foodservice practices in the future. Through qualitative inquiry, semi-structured interviews were conducted with individuals at operational and management levels responsible for policy, purchasing, production, onsite plating and delivery and waste disposal at three hospitals in Australia. Framework analysis was used to synthesise transcribed data into practices, barriers and enablers, and recommendations. Interviews (n=46 participants) identified current sustainable practices including those related to recyclable packaging, effective equipment and technology and efficient processes. Unsustainable practices included restrictions on sourcing food, packaging that cannot be separated or recycled, rigid foodservice models and menu, waste production and processes. Enablers to improve sustainability included the power of individuals to influence change, education on recycling, knowledge generation, audits and grants for innovative research, rebates and quality improvement processes. Barriers included competing priorities, poor communication, lack of training opportunities and knowledge, infection control restrictions, lack of policy, funding, and time between meal ordering and delivery. Participants proposed practice changes across the food supply chain and recommended generation and sharing of knowledge, leadership and policy support. Perspectives of individuals within foodservice reveal shared motivation and desire for sustainable foodservices, with support needed from leaders and policy. Future research should use a co-design approach involving staff to create and implement sustainable strategies within hospitals. To see widespread and timely change, action is needed towards effective and meaningful policy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)152-161
Number of pages10
JournalSustainable Production and Consumption
Volume25
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021

Keywords

  • Food supply chain
  • Foodservices
  • Hospital
  • Perspectives
  • Qualitative
  • Staff

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