The MECAHF (Modèle d’Économie Circulaire Alimentaire pour les Hôpitaux Français) project was developed by Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) Europe in collaboration with the Centre Hospitalier de Niort (CH Niort) in France. The project ran from 2018-2021 and aimed to increase the purchase of healthy and sustainable food products and raise awareness about food waste amongst patients and health professionals.
Purpose and aims
The project was established to assess food waste throughout the supply chain of CH Niort: procurement, preparation, consumption, and disposal. Through this project, the hospital aimed to tackle food waste and reinvest savings into the local economy through the purchase of more local and organic products.
The aims of the project were to:
- Develop and implement a ‘circular economy’ model for food at CH Niort
- Analyse and reduce food waste at the hospital
- Purchase more local and organic products
This project aimed to reduce food waste by 20% in three years, and increase the proportion of healthy and sustainable food as part of the overall procurement by at least 10% at CH Niort
- Develop a preliminary patient survey about hospital food services
- Measure the quantity of food wasted post-consumption in both the kitchen and cafeteria
- Analyse hospital purchases assessing which products can be substituted, to gradually move towards more fresh, local, and organic food
- Identify and engage with a network of local and organic farmers
- Evaluate progress and identify opportunities to scale-up initiatives to other institutions across France and Europe
Challenges and opportunities
A starting point of the MECAHF project was the lack of available information and data about food procurement and food waste specifically within the healthcare sector. There is little information available about the costs or benefits of transitioning towards a circular economy – what we know, however, is that the European healthcare has massive purchasing power – the sector accounts for approximately 8% of the workforce and 10% of the GDP in Europe.
Some hospitals and healthcare systems are already aligning their public procurement strategies with sustainable food policies to provide more appetising and nutritious meals, whilst reducing food waste, reducing impact on society and the environment, and saving money.
Food should be an integral and important part of patients’ treatment and care, providing good quality, nutritious, and appetising food is indispensable for patients’ health and wellbeing. Sustainable food procurement should therefore be used as a precondition to reduce food waste and improve the recovery of patients – food should have the recognition it deserves and be considered as the best medicine of all.
You can read about the outcomes and achievements of the MECAHF project in the final project report.