By Corinne Holroyd
---- — DERRY — In order to be a more sustainable institution, Parkland Medical Center has accepted a nationwide challenge.
The center and its staff have committed to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Food Recovery Challenge, which educates businesses and organizations across the country about food waste prevention.
“Food is just a big topic these days,” EPA project engineer Christine Beling said. “We just throw away a lot of food in this country.”
Parkland has joined 15 other New Hampshire organizations and more than 800 participants nationwide in the quest to reduce food waste.
The Food Recovery Challenge fits Parkland’s already sustainable system, according to Peggy Connors, director of food and nutrition services.
“It just seemed to go along with what we’re already doing,” she said. “It goes along with our philosophy of being as sustainable as we can.”
The goal of the challenge, Beling said, is described in a food recovery hierarchy, including reducing sources of food waste, donating fresh food, feeding fresh food scraps to animals and composting.
“It just makes sense,” she said. “We’re just wasting resources.”
To do this, Beling and other EPA staff reach out to large food waste producers, including grocery stores, colleges and universities, and healthcare facilities.
“Any good-size hospital and medical center has a lot of food waste,” she said.
EPA staff members then educate participants about what they can do to reduce food waste.
“We talk about options for food donation, for composting; some folks don’t recognize there are options out there,” Beling said. “We educate folks about the value.”
Most of Parkland’s food waste comes from production waste, or making food in the morning, Connors said.
To solve this, Parkland has a composting system running nine months of the year and sends it to Brick Ends Farm in Hamilton, Mass.
“Cleaning an onion, trimming the meat, taking the tops off celery, all of that is what we send for composting,” Connors said.
The medical center also donates unused food that is close to expiration for soup kitchens to use.
“We think it’s the right thing to do,” Connors said.
Parkland is also a part of the Healthier Hospitals Initiative, which sets up challenges including ones for food.
It will try to include healthier drinks and a more balanced menu, and has already made changes to do so.
There is no goal at the moment, Connors said, because it is their first year committing to the challenge.
“We want to see how our numbers break out,” she said.
EPA Solid Waste Generation Report