On January 17, 2019, Nourish hosted their second Virtual Retreat, attracting over 120 participants from twenty-five cohort organizations spanning Haida Gwaii to Gander. Moderated by Nourish Designer and Facilitator, Hayley Lapalme, the Virtual Retreat gathered healthcare food service directors, procurement managers, and CEOs from Nourish cohort organizations to share learnings across food projects working to enhance patient experience, organizational culture, and community wellbeing. It’s a conversation that has increasingly taken root over the last two years in Nourish cohort organizations as Innovators and their colleagues have built a growing practice around designing food initiatives that support patient and planetary health.
It was a full house at many Innovator organizations who video-conferenced in. Our Quebecois colleagues modelled the significance of relationship-building and working across silos in the work; they joined the Virtual Retreat with the participation of their colleagues from the ministries of health, agriculture, and environment, along with representatives from the three public group purchasing organizations in the province. All chimed in for a first session that opened with remarks from a panel of senior leaders.

In his opening remarks, Stephen Huddart, McConnell Foundation President and CEO, situated himself on Mohawk Territory and centred the group in some of the systemic challenges of our time, including transitioning to an equitable, low carbon economy; advancing reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people; and alleviating the growing burden of cost on the health care system. He signalled the importance of cross-sector collaborations in advancing these issues, and his gratitude to the Nourish cohort for their critical role in influencing positive changes through supply chains and communities, at a time when society is pressed to deliver better outcomes within existing budgets. “What Nourish has shown McConnell, is that people working in food service management positions across the country, have enormous interest and capacity for improving the ways food is procured, processed, prepared, and provided to patients, and that in doing so, they are pointing the ways toward policy change that can further this work at a higher scale.”
Linda Chow Turner, (Senior Operating Officer, Covenant Health, AB) shared: “Being part of Nourish is helping us to achieve our mission and vision, and to live our values. We have benefitted from the communities of practice, through learning and sharing. Nourish and its cohort has emboldened us to be courageous and resilient, in a health care system that is both complex and complicated. She described the learnings drawn from a national cohort, some of whom had gone through the same transition to room service they were exploring, to build from an understand of past pitfalls and wins with the food service model. “I now get feedback [about the new room service] from patients saying: “Thank you so much, you made it possible for me to stay by my wife’s bedside at a moment that mattered most for her.”
Andrew Will, (VP Infrastructure, Information and Support, Saskatchewan Health Authority), reflected on the power of Nourish’s community of practice approach in scaling best practises across health authorities and provinces, to the national level. Grove Park Home Executive Director, Paul Taylor echoed his fellow panelists in thanking his organization’s Innovator for leading the work, and described the impact of of Nourish projects on their staff and patients as “Empowerment, engagement, celebration or excitement, and enterprising. We ended up with a money-making bee program!”
The half-day Virtual Retreat showcased the learnings and headway that Nourish cohort members have made. Presentation showcased lessons learned and synthesized from efforts at hospitals and long-term care homes from across the country, including food projects that have helped to increase patient satisfaction, better meet the needs of cultural populations and decrease food waste. Innovator Marianne Katusin (Halton Healthcare) also described the Nourish cohort’s collaborative projects that address intersecting issues around the fundamental role of food in health and healthing, and that aspire for systems change.
Teams of Nourish Innovators shared learning across six strategic areas that encompass their collaborative project work and organizational-level initiatives:
• Food Service Innovation
• Traditional Food Programs
• Designing Sustainable Menus
• Sustainable Procurement Innovation
• On-Site Gardens and Bees
• Staff and Patient education
A few highlights from these presentations included:
Tessie Harris and Michelle Nelson shared case studies that highlighted how innovations in food service, such as a switch to room service or a return to on-site scratch cooking, were value-creating, cost-neutral innovations that increased patient satisfaction and decreased tray waste.
Shelly Crack shared insights from across the cohort’s work to deliver more traditional food programming, and reflected the importance of consultation with elders and centring indigenous voices, stories, and recipes to understand how food can support well-being in the health care context; this work starts with building relationships with the First Nation, Metis, or Inuit neighbours of any health organization.
Kathy Berger and Josée Lavoie presented the framework of three dimensions of sustainability, social, environmental, and economic, and shared pathways forward including shifts to more plant-based diets and an example from a hospital leading the sector in efforts to source organic foods.
Dan Munshaw and Tina Strickland shared innovative work to “take control of health care supply chains” and do more values-based procurement, citing opportunities with forward contracting and building relationships with local suppliers. Anne GIgnac and Cosmin Vasile (Sustainable Development Advisor, GACEQ, QC) demonstrated Quebec’s commitment to silo-busting, joined-up efforts to arrive at sustainable procurement priorities.
Finally, Travis Durham, Stephanie Cook, and Louise Quenneville highlighted how their efforts to bring bees and gardens on to health care campuses support resident life enrichment, stroke rehabilitation, and build new relationships with First Nations community partners.
An insight from Alberta Health Services’ Procurement Manager, Javier Games, captures the spirit of the Nourish approach to innovation: “We recognize that we need to bring in other people to learn what we don’t know… and to lean into cooperation rather than competition.” We invite all our readers into this spirit of cooperative innovation this Spring, for our Food for Health Symposium, May 16-17 in Toronto. Join us in diving deeper into our strategic areas of learning, learn from the cohort’s successes and failures – and bring your own work to the table.

Originally written by Molly Fremes of Nourish Healthcare. https://www.nourishhealthcare.ca/blog/2019/2/20/innovators-and-executives-reflect-on-two-years-of-learning-about-food-in-health-care

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