An international food advocate was in Canada this week, trying to promote healthy eating in hospitals around the world.

Alex Jackson has seen the quality of hospital food deteriorate in his home country of Great Britain for the past 20 years, so he quit his job and started the Campaign for Better Hospital Food.

He's seeing similar issues here in Ontario, where many patients say the best part of a hospital meal is the jello.

"Over the last 20 years, we've seen the closure of hospital kitchens," said Jackson. "We've seen the quality of hospital meals continue to get worse. We've seen them continue to get more unhealthy."

Luis Rodriquez, Vice President of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions, used to cook for a hospital in Kingston, Ont.

"All the hospital is doing now is reheating and microwaving food and giving it to the patients," he said.  "With the health of these people that come to us, nutritional food, healthy food is very, very important."

Rodriquez said an average of 40 meals a day used to be thrown out at his hospital.

At the Ouellette Campus of Windsor Regional Hospital, the leftover food is composted.

More than 200 kg of waste is processed each day burning the garbage into organic fertilizer, which is then used community gardens.

Adam Wright, Green party candidate for Windsor-Tecumseh, said there are many benefits.
"First of all we're dealing with the problem of waste which can cost tax payers a lot of money, so we can recoup some of those costs by actually turning that waste into a resource," he said.

But, keeping patients eating more healthy and local, is a challenge, according to Michele Legere with Food Matters Windsor-Essex.

"There's no one place that we can source that does a lot of local food," she said. "Getting a food hub is one of the things we really need to look at."

Politicians respond

Liberal incumbent Teresa Piruzza would only say her party might consider food terminal, a central place for hosptials to buy local produce.

The NDP candidate for Windsor West Lisa Gretzky said her party would introduce targets. She would begin with mandating that 10 per cent of a hospital meal would have to be local.

That target would be moved up to 20 per cent in eight years.