Defending Better Food

When I was growing up, food was a central part of our life as a family.  Most of the talking, fighting, loving and growing we did was around the dinner table.  And if you were sick, food was a central part of the cure – chicken noodle soup for colds, tea and toast for an upset stomach, ice cream and popsicles for a sore throat.

So the notion of improving hospital food makes perfect sense to me.  And it makes perfect sense to the many, many supporters in our community and beyond who have said “what a great idea!” or “how can I help?”

But there are those who question the value of this project.  “Why,” they ask, “are you focusing on food – shouldn’t your focus be clinical care?”

Of course.  Clinical care is our core business, and there are hundreds and hundreds of people in this organization who are focused on nothing but.  And, they are making tremendous progress every day – you just have to look at some of our clinical outcome measures (like HSMR) on the hospital’s website to see the results of all that hard work.

For me, there are two central reasons why improving hospital food at The Scarborough Hospital is also a worthwhile project:

  1. Food is part of clinical care.  Study after study proves that patients who eat good, healthy food recover faster.  Florence Nightingale devoted a whole chapter on this important topic in her seminal work “Notes on Nursing” back in the 1800s, and somehow, in this modern age, we seem to have forgotten this.  Food is important to health.  Full stop.
  2. Excellence, one of our core values, means excellence in all aspects of our business.  Our values challenge all of us to strive for excellence, regardless of our role.  Those of us who do not work directly at the bedside must still work to do the very best we can for the patients in our care.  Improvement projects, like this one, are underway in all areas as we strive for operational excellence.

I am so pleased to see that many other hospitals in Ontario and around the world have embarked on a similar journey.  This link ( is to an article about British hospital food, where a similar project is underway.

If you would like to receive The Scarborough Hospital’s special monthly update on their innovative patient food improvement project, ReFRESHing our Menu, please email Julie Dowdie at [email protected]

- Anne Marie Males, Vice President of Patient Experience at The Scarborough Hospital