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UPDATE: Barlow to join food fight with Kingston hospital tonight

Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow will be speaking in Kingston this evening 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.

CBC reported in late November that, “Eastern Ontario farmers are complaining after a major Kingston, Ont., hospital decided to truck in food from the Toronto area earlier this week. Kingston General Hospital chose Compass Group Canada, a Mississauga company, as its new food supplier, despite recent protests from Kingston-area farmers who want to produce food locally for the hospital.”

“(Dianne) Dowling (of the National Farmers Union) said going with a local company would have lowered the hospital’s carbon footprint, and trucking food in goes against the hospital’s goal to be more sustainable. But hospital board chair Chris Cunningham said going with the Mississauga company was cheaper in the long run. Cunningham said the farmers’ plan would have been too expensive because the hospital would have to build kitchens and provide other infrastructure.”

Kingston General Hospital Dr. Edward Leyton wrote in a letter to the editor in Kingston This Week that, “In my opinion, it is the height of stupidity for Kingston General Hospital to have decided to outsource its hospital meals to a multinational conglomerate 300 km from here. Anyone who works with nutrition will tell you that the more that you do to a food, the fewer nutrients it has. Vitamin C begins to be lost from fruit the moment it is cut; cooking causes more vitamin loss in most foods. Storing, reheating and transporting for long distances do the same thing. Even though the hospital may be trying to cut back on expenses, this is short-sighted. The true cost will lie in the extra time that it takes for people to heal from that surgery and from the very illnesses they go into the hospital to heal from in the first place.”

The Kingston Whig-Standard reported that, “The hospital board of directors voted (on November 23) to sign a 10-year deal with Compass Group that will see the catering company provide about 1,200 patient meals a day. It will also take over managing the basement-level cafeteria and set up a Tim Hortons outlet in the lobby.”

4,175 cards and 2,500 emails had been sent to the hospital opposing this deal. CBC adds that, “Kingston patients are scheduled to begin getting food from the new company in the spring.”