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Powell River chapter to hold community conversation on hospital food

The Council of Canadians Powell River chapter will hold a “community conversation” on hospital food this coming February 21.

Chapter activist Murray Dobbin writes, “The issue of food quality in Powell River’s hospital and seniors’ homes has not gone away. Raised dramatically last fall in a front-page Peak story, the issue will be addressed by a coalition of local groups in a series of public meetings intended to examine the problem and identify long-term solutions. The first meeting will take place at 6:30 pm Tuesday, February 21, at the Vancouver Island University (VIU) campus, room 148. The series is co-sponsored by Powell River Voices, VIU and the Council of Canadians.”

The public forum will feature “Colleen Kimmett, an investigative reporter who wrote a three-part series on the issue in 2012, and Elaine Steiger, the local seniors’ advocate who  brought the issue to light last September.”

Dobbin notes, “In her series published online at thetyee.ca, Kimmett discovered that some institutions in Canada still prepare meals onsite. However, in BC, most are contracted out to large corporations such as Sodexo, which provides food services to Willingdon Creek Village, Evergreen Care Unit and the hospital. In her investigations, Kimmett found it extremely difficult to get answers to her questions about what is actually in the food served by the corporate giant, or if this contracting out actually saves money.”

And Steiger says, “What a lot of people forget is that the extended care unit is people’s home. They should be treated with dignity and should be able to eat well. Food should be seen as equally important as medicine in health outcomes.”

The Council of Canadians has encountered this issue before.

In December 2010, Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow spoke in Kingston in opposition to a decision made by the Kingston General Hospital to have the food for its patients trucked in from Toronto, rather than supplied and cooked locally. The Kingston General Hospital signed a 10-year deal with Compass Group Canada (a subsidiary of UK-based Compass Group PLC) as its food supplier over Kingston-area farmers who had wanted to produce food locally for the hospital.

And in June 2016, the Peterborough-Kawarthas chapter rallied with local hospital food workers. That protest highlighted that when food service jobs at the Peterborough Regional Health Centre were contracted out to Compass their wages were cut in half. Compass Group Canada had managed revenues of $1.9 billion in 2015.

The February 21 public forum in Powell River will be the first in a series of community conversations about institutional food, alternatives and what people can do to improve the situation.