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From data to action: Implementing a circular economy model for food in European hospitals

FR | ES

The MECAHF project aims to implement a circular economy model of food in French hospitals. The project is organised by HCWH Europe in collaboration with the Hospital of Niort to develop a tool to measure food waste and identify opportunities to reduce this waste and reinvest savings into the local economy. The project aims to reduce food waste by 20% in three years and achieve a minimum of 10% local/organic produce as part of their overall procurement, as well as raise awareness of food waste amongst patients and health professionals.

Project activities include:

  • Develop a patient survey about hospital food services
  • Measure food waste post-consumption in both the kitchen and cafeteria
  • Analyse hospital purchases and assess which products can be substituted, with 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

Initiated in 2018, the project concluded this year with a final conference to present the results on 4 November. To accommodate travel restrictions and public health advice, this event took place online, and brought together over 80 representatives from the healthcare, nutrition, and catering professions across Europe.

Session 1 – Reducing food waste, improving menus

Measuring and sorting food waste in a hospital
Bernard Jourdain, Head of Sustainable Development – Hospital of Niort

Bernard began the session by explaining how the hospital measured waste in several locations on the hospital site including the catering unit, the general hospital, the mother-child centre, and psychiatric ward.

The waste was sorted according to three categories: household waste, recyclable waste, and bio-waste. By sorting the waste from different services, the hospital has been able to gain a better understanding of the composition of its waste and have taken different actions to reduce it, particularly at the food production unit.

The new food offer at the Hospital of Niort
Vincent Robin, Kitchen manager – Hospital of Niort
Laura Carrera, Quality manager – Hospital of Niort
Nadine Labrune, Head of the dietetic department – Hospital of Niort

Colleagues from Hospital of Niort explained how they adapted their menus to specific needs and preferences in order to meet health standards as well as the sustainability objectives of the hospital. They have tested new recipes, new products, and restructured the kitchen to stop the use of single-use plastic trays, as well as reduced their general waste.

Session 2 – Different tools to fight food waste

The Optimeal food waste measuring tool
Alain Buonomo, Ex Manager of Technical and Catering services – Hospital of Briançon
Camille Devroedt, Technical Services Manager – Hospital of Millau and Saint Affrique

Alain and Camille presented the Optimeal tool, which was designed to measure food waste in healthcare settings and support their efforts to fight food waste. The tool can be used to identify where hospitals can improve meals, donate food, raise awareness among canteen staff, and improve financial management.

Presenting the food waste and food carbon footprinting tool
Pierre-Yves Koehrer, Senior CSR Consultant – E6 Consulting
Nicolas Olivier, Project Manager – Sémaphore Agency

Pierre-Yves and Nicolas presented the tools that were developed as part of the MECAHF project to measure food waste from food services, as well as the carbon impact of food purchases.

Newly developed software (currently a beta version only available in French) merges these tools so that they can be easily used by food services in (both public and private) healthcare facilities and nursing homes, as well as school canteens or company restaurants. The first tool for measuring food waste allows users to enter data such as:

  • Number of meals cooked each year
  • Costs (raw materials, staff, investments, energy)
  • Average weight or volume of waste
  • The cost of waste removal

Based on data input, the first tool calculates the number of meals wasted. The second calculates the carbon emissions of food purchases. By inputting the quantities of food types e.g. fruits, vegetables, meat, fish etc., the price paid for each ingredient, the method of production, and source (local, national, international), the tool will calculate the carbon footprint of food purchased and the total cost of food purchased.

Communication and dissemination of the MECAHF project results
Paola Hernandez Olivan, Food Policy and Project Officer – HCWH Europe

Closing the online conference, Paola presented the dissemination activities of project via the www.foodforhealthcare.org website, social media networks, newsletters, and other channels.


HCWH Europe would like to thank all of the speakers and participants for their excellent contributions. The conference was extremely enlightening and, even though the project is now drawing to a close, there is still much work to be done. Many challenges still need to be overcome in relation to food waste (and related emissions) in healthcare.

With this pilot project, we have demonstrated that catering services in healthcare can play an important role in making food a fundamental part of patient and staff satisfaction with healthcare services, as well as reducing the environmental impact of hospitals. The project has also shown us that involving a wide range of stakeholders, such as patients and local and organic farmers, is essential in developing and implementing sustainable food strategies within hospitals, and helping to prevent and reduce food waste.

If you are interested in learning more about this project, or how you can help test the software developed to calculate the carbon footprint of food waste at your hospital, please contact paola.hernandezolivan@hcwh.org.


The MECAHF project is developed by Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) Europe in collaboration with Centre Hospitalier de Niort (CH Niort), France.

HCWH Europe gratefully acknowledges the financial support from the LIFE programme of the European Commission (EC), Fondation Daniel & Nina Carasso, and the Nouvelle-Aquitaine Region. HCWH Europe is solely responsible for the content of this publication and related materials. The views expressed do not reflect the official views of the EC, Fondation Daniel & Nina Carasso, or the Nouvelle-Aquitaine Region.