Food is fundamental to health and healing (Sustainable Food Systems)

Nourish Wasan Retreat | September 2017

September 2017, leaders from across healthcare, government and food sectors convened together on Wasan Island to explore the role of food in healthcare in Canada, and the core belief of the group was that food is fundamental to health and healing, but is currently undervalued within the healthcare system. Through systems mapping, the group explored the dynamics of the current healthcare system and prototyped actionable opportunities for a future of food in healthcare that nourishes patients, communities and the environment, thereby providing health and healing.

The group mapped the current system through design tools such as rich picture, concept-maps and service blueprints to surface some of the following insights about what current systems looks like:

– The patient is currently lost within the hospital food system and is often unhappy with the food in spite of its role in recovery, contributing to extended stays and food waste. For example, many healthcare facilities don’t serve food in a way that gives patients flexibility around when or what they eat.

– Health care in hospitals has become reduced to acute care, prioritizing crisis management over prevention and community well-being.

– The need to serve safe food in hospitals may lead to inflated risk aversion, making innovations in menu planning and sourcing a challenge.

– Translating values into reductionist menus, contracts and dietary restrictions leads to a loss in the knowledge and appreciation of the complexity of food, making it difficult to address the cultural, social, psychological dimensions of nourishment.

– The food systems and health systems are disconnected, and there are missed opportunities along the patient journey to connect with food, community health, and building stronger food systems.

– There is an opportunity for building a strong business case for good food in healthcare, but this requires more benchmarking and research around the role of food in recovery, and measurement of the social and economic benefits of sustainable food procurement.

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