Preventing food waste

Published On: Apr 22 2011 02:17:36 PM CDT   Updated On: May 15 2011 11:50:43 PM CDT

Reported by Jade Olds | bio | email | twitter

LA CROSSE, Wis. - La Crosse's two hospitals are some of the area's biggest consumers of energy and food.

Between Gundersen Lutheran and Franciscan Skemp, about 5,000 meals are served each day.

However, hundreds of pounds of food also end up in the trash.

Due to some recent changes, the amount of food waste at both facilities is declining.

Less than a year ago the kitchen at Gundersen Lutheran would throw away about 1,000 pounds of food each week.

In just six months that amount has been cut in half.

"We will save the organization up to 25,000 dollars a year," said Tom Thompson, sustainability coordinator at Gundersen Lutheran.

Many of the changes are simple.

For example, vegetables are now prepared in a way that produces less scrap waste, and a smaller amount of soup is heated at one time.

A new food tracking system allows the kitchen to identify which types of food and how much is being wasted.

That makes it easier to address problem areas.

"It's very easy to use, it's very user friendly," said Thompson.

Before any food is donated or discarded, it's taken over to a scale and weighed.

Each week a report is printed out, letting the staff know the progress their making.

"This is very easy, and everybody, our entire staff is on board," said Thomas Sacksteder, executive chef at Gundersen Lutheran.

Not only is Gundersen saving food, they're also helping those who need it most.

Two thirds of what used to end up in the garbage is now donated to the Salvation Army.

"We do about 3,000 meals per day, we make it from scratch, and then anything that's left over that we can give to the less fortunate, we're really happy to do that," said Sacksteder.

Less food is being thrown away at Franciscan Skemp as well.

Before their new room service program, the same meal was served to all patients at certain times of the day.

Now, patents can choose what they want to eat when they want it.

"We have decreased plate waste, patients order what they want, so therefore they eat it, so we have minimum waste," said Walter Shillinger, nutrition services director at Franciscan Skemp.

The hospital expects the room service program to save around 200,000 dollars a year.