Slow IT upgrade delays patients’ choice of reFRESHed menu at Scarborough General

With so many components yet to be put in place, the ReFRESHing our Menu project will not be implemented for another year, says Scarborough General Hospital’s (SGH) Susan Bull.

“What we can’t do, is change anything without changing everything,” she said.

Last summer, The Scarborough Hospital, 3050 Lawrence Ave. E., announced it would be making some changes to better satisfy its patients. They introduced the ReFRESHing our Menu project. To date, a number of new menu items have been created and fresh food suppliers identified. The project has expanded to include in-house training and a commitment to purchase foods from Ontario farmers.

The program has been delayed however, because the installation of the machinery and technology needed, is taking longer than anticipated.

“We’ve had a lot of recipe development,” said Bull, nutrition and food services manager at the general campus. ­­­“Now we just need to wait until the rest of the project catches up.”

We always want to improve the item that is least liked by our patients.

— Susan Bull

When patients are in recovery, it is important to have healthy food on the hospital menu, said Didem Varol, a registered dietitian with Toronto Public Health.

“There’s not a big nutritional difference between frozen and fresh produce,” Varol said. “In taste there might be.”

“We always want to improve the item that is least liked by our patients,” Bull said.

The hospital currently has a non-selective menu for its patients. The proposed system allows patients to make meal choices from a diet-specific menu, offered at bedside. This will then be logged with the kitchen staff through a portable device.

“Once they do that we will generate a meal chit,” Bull explains. “Kind of like what waitresses do in restaurants.”

Over time pre-cut and frozen foods were introduced to shorten preparation times, but with this initiative, the kitchen staff will extend their “in-house scratch food production” to include cutting and peeling more fresh produce.

The more you use something in its original state, the more control you have over what goes into that food, Varol said.

“What we are going to buy are potatoes (for example) that we now have to peel,” Bull explains. “Not frozen, or soaked in a (potentially unhealthy) metabisulphite product.”

This effort has been endorsed by the Ontario government, through the Greenbelt Fund, a program focused on significantly increasing the procurement of Ontario-grown food.

“The Fund has given out $4.3 million worth of grants to help put local food sourcing in a variety of different institutions,” Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation’s Katie Sandwell said.

One of the grants was given to SGH, “to support the work that they have been doing with refreshing their menu,” said Sandwell, the Foundation’s program assistant.

Scarborough’s Rouge Valley Centenary hospital is also improving its menu, said William Troup, food and nutrition supervisor.

“We are looking at using local produce,” Troup said. “So yes, we are heading in that direction.”

He said there was no implementation date planned, but it would most likely be in the summer when you “can get fresh produce from the local areas.”

Timing is also important to Scarborough General. So because they are still in the early stages of upgrading the information technology needed, there will only be a “partial implementation” of the ReFRESHing our Menu project in the summer.