Vancouver General Hospital pilots new plant-rich menu items for health of patients and planet

Press Release

VANCOUVER, BC, March 13, 2024 – For the past six months, inpatients receiving care at Vancouver Coastal Health’s (VCH) Vancouver General Hospital have been able to fuel their healing with a diverse selection of new delicious, nutritious and environmentally sustainable menu items, thanks to a Planetary Health Menu Pilot project.

“Vancouver Coastal Health is committed to continually improving the patient experience and food is an important part of this,” said Darcia Pope, Vice-President, Strategy, Innovation and Planetary Health at Vancouver Coastal Health. “We started this project with the goal of creating flavourful, comforting meals using fresh, nutritionally dense ingredients so that patients had appealing food options to help them in their healing and recovery. We also recognized that this project presented an opportunity to look at how we could adjust our food services program to be more environmentally sustainable.”

The Planetary Health Menu Pilot project was led by Dr. Annie Lalande, surgical resident and PhD student in Resources, Environment and Sustainability at University of British Columbia (UBC), and Tiffany Chiang, Director, Food Service Transformation and Strategic Projects at VCH. They brought together food services staff, dietitians, clinicians and planetary health experts to work alongside Ned Bell, renowned chef and sustainable food champion, in developing the menu items.

More than 20 new menu items have been developed to offer patients a diversity of choices, incorporating patient preferences and ingredients with lower environmental impacts. These include dishes such as Steelhead Trout with Tomato Miso Dressing, Chickpea Curry with Cashews and Mango Chutney and a Korean Gochujang Bowl. The new dishes were evaluated by patient partners who provided valuable feedback on the meal’s desirability during times of illness. Dishes that were favourably reviewed were served on a trial basis to inpatients at Vancouver General Hospital. Feedback was solicited through surveys and interviews throughout the process, and helped tailor the dishes to patient preferences. Food waste rates were also measured to complement patient feedback in determining how the new dishes were received.

“We’ve long used the phrase ‘food is medicine’ and we’re finding that this is true not only for patients but for our planet as well,” says Dr. Annie Lalande. “Providing tasty, nutritious meals, which is critical to recovery from illness and injury, also presents a significant opportunity to decrease our environmental footprint by focusing on lower-impact ingredients.”

“Sustainable food and food systems have been a passion of mine throughout my career,” says Chef Ned Bell. “Working to develop menu items that are sustainable and also appeal to a wide variety of tastes on such a massive scale was challenging, but the work we’ve done here has been so rewarding.”

The Planetary Health Menu Pilot has recently concluded. During the coming months, following data analysis, the menu items that patients enjoyed the most will be incorporated into menus across VCH.

This is the first project funded by the Vancouver Coastal Health Boehringer Ingelheim Collaboration (VCH-BI), a partnership announced in 2023 that provides flexible seed funding for innovation initiatives in the areas of planetary health, Indigenous health and chronic disease, and supported by the VGH + UBC Hospital Foundation.

This project was also supported by Greener By Default, who worked in collaboration with the project team on menu consultation, education and evaluation. As participants in Nourish’s second Anchor Cohort during the development of this pilot project, VCH became early adopters of their Planetary Health Menu Program.

Planetary health refers to the interdependent relationship between the health of our communities and the health of the environment, and is an area of increasing concern for health systems. VCH takes a two-pronged approach to planetary health, recognizing the need for both climate change mitigation and adaptation. Learn more about VCH’s commitment to environmental sustainability and accountability as well as other planetary health initiatives at: www.vch.ca/planteryhealth.

QUOTES:

Angela Chapman, President and CEO, VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation
“VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation is thrilled to back the innovative Planetary Health project. This initiative not only elevates patient care with nutritious, sustainable meals but also marks a significant stride in environmental stewardship. It exemplifies our commitment to innovation and health care excellence, demonstrating the power of collaboration in fostering a healthier future for both our patients and the planet.”

Annie Beauchemin, Head of Market Access, Boehringer Ingelheim Canada (Ltd.)
“Partnerships, such as this one, play a crucial role in bringing valuable solutions to patients and the health care systems. We believe co-creation and collaboration are necessary to address and manage the complex healthcare challenges of today. Through our collective efforts, we aim to foster innovative solutions that are impactful for patients and the health care system.”

ABOUT:

Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH)
Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) is committed to delivering exceptional care to 1.25 million people, including the First Nations, Métis and Inuit within the traditional territories of the Heiltsuk, Kitasoo-Xai’xais, Lil’wat, Musqueam, N’Quatqua, Nuxalk, Samahquam, shíshálh, Skatin, Squamish, Tla’amin, Tsleil-Waututh, Wuikinuxv, and Xa’xtsa.

VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation
VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation is Vancouver Coastal Health’s primary philanthropic partner, raising funds for specialized adult healthcare services and research for all British Columbians. VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation is the leading charity investing in healthcare innovation in British Columbia and partners with donors to raise essential funds for Vancouver Coastal Health, supporting VGH, UBC Hospital, GF Strong Rehab Centre, Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute, and Community Health Services.

Boehringer Ingelheim (Canada) Ltd.
Boehringer Ingelheim is working on breakthrough therapies that transform lives, today and for generations to come. As a leading research-driven biopharmaceutical company, the company creates value through innovation in areas of high unmet medical need. Founded in 1885 and family-owned ever since, Boehringer Ingelheim takes a long-term, sustainable perspective. More than 53,000 employees serve over 130 markets in the two business units, Human Pharma and Animal Health. The Canadian headquarters of Boehringer Ingelheim was established in 1972 in Montreal, Quebec and is now located in Burlington, Ontario. Boehringer Ingelheim employs approximately 500 people across Canada. Learn more at www.boehringer-ingelheim.com/ca

SOURCE Boehringer Ingelheim Canada Ltd.

For further information: Vancouver Coastal Health, media@vch.ca | 604.202.2012 (after-hours); Boehringer Ingelheim Canada (Ltd.), Pilar Iglesias | pilar.iglesias@boehringer-ingelheim.com | 647.271.4717; VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation, Mikkel Strojer | mikkel.strojer@vghfoundation.ca | 778.653.2829; Greener By Default, Katie Cantrell | katie@greenerbydefault.org | 323.828.7040; Nourish, Lana Brandt | lbrandt@nourishleadership.ca | 778.833.2954

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