The Sainte-Justine Hospital Centre has taken a big step towards healthier food options for its patients, visitors and staff members. Beginning this summer, Délipapilles, the hospital's food service, will be using local organic vegetables to prepare its meals. Through a partnership with Équiterre, Délipapilles is working directly with three Quebec organic farms from the Bio Locaux collective, which are members of the CAPÉ cooperative and the Équiterre family farmers network. To celebrate the start of this project, Équiterre recently organized a visit to the farms for several members of the CHU Sainte-Justine's food service team, so that they could get to know the farmers and the benefits of organic farming.
Organic food in a children's hospital
Children and infants are particularly vulnerable to chemical products, such as the pesticides that are widely used by the food industry. By including 17 organic vegetables and herbs on the menu this summer, and with the intention of increasing the proportion of organic foods in its meals, the CHU Sainte-Justine’s food service is helping to reduce its patients' exposure to pesticides.
"We reached out to Équiterre because we needed help finding local fruit and vegetable producers who could meet our needs, and also to set up an education and awareness component for staff, visitors and patients," explains Josée Lavoie, Manager of Food Services at Délipapilles.
Deliveries have just begun, but Équiterre and the CHU Sainte-Justine are planning many awareness-raising activities on the benefits of organic and local foods through the project.
"This is a concrete example of a Quebec institution taking the lead on local organic food procurement, and we hope that they will serve as a model to inspire food services in other Quebec hospitals and public institutions," says Murielle Vrins, Institutional Food Project Manager at Équiterre. "Organic food choices contribute to a healthier environment and population. Public institutions should set the example by including organic and local foods in their daily meals, so that citizens can follow their lead in their own food procurement.”
A wonderful partnership
We are only at the beginning of this inspiring project, which benefits from the support of the Ministère de l'Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l'Alimentation under the regional agriculture and agri-food development support program, as well as the CHU Sainte-Justine Foundation.
There was overwhelming enthusiasm for all involved when we visited the partner farms. CHU Sainte-Justine employees are very proud to serve organic and local vegetables at Délipapilles, the farmers are delighted to supply the CHU Sainte-Justine, and Équiterre hopes that this fruitful collaboration will be a great model for other Quebec institutions.
"Changing the world one plate at a time is what we do every day in Sainte-Justine's kitchens," concluded Ms. Lavoie.