Food waste in healthcare: European policy and national initiatives
Preventing and reducing food waste has become a global priority – one-third of food produced in the world – approximately 1.3 billion tons – is wasted every year. This misuse of valuable resources has a significant impact on the environment, economy, health, and society as a whole.
The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 calls for an ambitious target to halve global food waste per capita by 2030. The European Institutions are debating the revision of the Waste Framework Directive, in which the European Parliament has proposed to include a food waste definition, food waste targets, and a food waste hierarchy.
The European Commission is also working towards developing a methodology for EU Member States to prevent and reduce food waste in various sectors, from retail to consumption. In this political context, not much attention has been given to the healthcare sector, even though in hospitals and other healthcare facilities, food waste is actually higher than in other food service sectors.
The healthcare sector faces unique challenges compared to other food preparation services – e.g. food waste in hospitals may result from the need to create customised dietary options based on the patients’ conditions, patients’ appetite challenges, or from the unpredictable number of patients and visitors. There is also the problem of extended hours of service and different snack and meal times.
These factors combined make food waste reduction in hospitals a complex issue that needs to be tackled. It requires technical expertise, careful execution, and the involvement of staff and patients. Despite these challenges, food waste reduction in healthcare is possible and can offer cost savings that hospitals can use in procuring higher-quality, healthy, and sustainable food.
This workshop provided an overview of the ongoing policy developments at both the EU and international levels to prevent and reduce food waste.
Member State initiatives on preventing and reducing food waste in the healthcare sector from Ireland, The Netherlands, and the United Kingdom were explored, and best practices on how hospitals and other healthcare facilities have implemented food waste prevention and reduction strategies were showcased.
A Workshop – ‘Food waste in healthcare: European policy and national initiatives‘ – organised by HCWH Europe took place in Brussels on 27 June.