May 14, 2019
Hackensack Meridian Health focused on sustainability and avoiding food waste
Hackensack Meridian Health has long been a leader in providing healthy, nutritious food to its patients, team members, and guests. But, as a health organization that serves thousands of meals each day, the network is also focused on reducing waste made from each meal.
To raise awareness of these efforts, Hackensack Meridian Health Jersey Shore University Medical Center held a Zero Waste Dinner on April 24, International Stop Food Waste Day, compliments of the medical center’s Food and Nutrition service provider Morrison Healthcare. With oversight from Morrison’s Vice President of Culinary Services Chef Cary Neff and Corporate Executive Chef Greg Cordova, the Morrison Hackensack Meridian Health culinary team provided a six-course Zero Waste meal for more than 30 board members and administrators.
The guest list included Jersey Shore University Medical Center Chief Hospital Executive Vito Buccellato, MPA, Bayshore Medical Center Chief Hospital Executive Frank Citara, Hackensack Meridian Health Vice President of Hospitality Services Kunle Modupe, Jersey Shore University Medical Center Vice President of Guest Experience & Hospitality Annamarie Cutroneo and Hackensack Meridian Health Director of Sustainability Kyle Tafuri.
Buccellato welcomed those in attendance and shared a touching story about how much avoiding food waste meant to his family when he was growing up. He went on to express his appreciation for the positive impact that Hackensack Meridian Health is making through its focus on sustainability, and how he looks forward to continuing to support the initiatives at Jersey Shore University Medical Center. Additionally, Tafuri shared the accomplishments Hackensack Meridian Health has earned in sustainability to date and emphasized that avoiding food waste is an important strategy for the network.
Chef Cordova’s unique meal combined seasonal, sustainable food with no waste in food preparation. For example, baked avocados were served using the vegetable’s skin as a serving dish. The flesh of the avocado was served as part of the main course and the core of the vegetable was used as a garnish – so none of the vegetables were thrown out. “Our objective was to build a menu that used each part of every vegetable while still creating a meal with great flavors and presentation,” said Chef Cordova. “We were able to cook and serve a healthy meal using seasonal and sustainable food with virtually no food waste.”
As the main course, local scallops from the New Jersey shore were used to make Barnegat scallops. The culinary team also used the chunks of each scallop that is typically thrown out as part of the shucking process, as well as broken or misshapen scallops.
As part of the meal, Morrison chefs served each course by taking kitchen pots to each table, using no plastic or disposable utensils. They discussed the ingredients used to prepare each course while also explaining how cooking a meal with zero waste reduces water use, transportation costs, and eliminates food from going into landfills.
To complete the meal’s Zero Waste theme, attendees received their food on platters, plates and other dinnerware purchased from a second-hand store. After the meal, the dinnerware was donated to a local women’s shelter.
It is estimated that approximately 40 percent of all food purchased in the U.S. is wasted or thrown out. The Zero Food Waste dinner is part of a comprehensive program throughout Hackensack Meridian Health to utilize local and sustainable foods while reducing food waste.
Hackensack Meridian Health received a System for Change Award from Practice Greenhealth in April. The network was selected as an Environmental Excellence Award winner for its commitment to improving environmental performance and achieving a top standard of excellence in sustainability. This year, network-affiliated hospitals received dozens of Practice Greenhealth recognitions due to a shared vision to raise the bar on environmental leadership and sustainability initiatives. The level of achievement grows as the network-wide commitment deepens.
Practice Greenhealth is a nonprofit membership organization and the source for environmental solutions for the health care sector and lends support to create better, safer, greener workplaces and communities.