Practice Greenhealth and Feeding America are collaborating to donate excess food from hospitals and health care facilities to local food banks to help feed hungry Americans and keep waste out of landfills.

The program builds upon the commitment of Practice Greenhealth, a leading health care sustainability membership organization, to improve the health of patients, staff and communities through a partnership with Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger relief organization.

The goal is to reduce food overproduction and waste and encourage healthy food consumption, especially among those who need it most, says Gary Cohen, president and founder, Practice Greenhealth.

“Hospitals supply a tremendous amount of safe, nutrient-rich food every day, and keeping it from going to waste — from ending up in landfills — is a moral, social and environmental imperative,” he says.

Chicago-based Feeding America provides food and groceries to 46 million Americans, including 15 million children and seven million seniors. More than 48 million Americans are food insecure, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Because hospitals are located in nearly every community in America they can play a significant role in feeding the hungry and protecting the environment from methane gas in landfills.

Methane is a greenhouse gas (GHG) that is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. More than 70 billion pounds of food go to waste in the U.S. each year.

“Through Feeding America’s online interface, together we will be able to measure, as a health care community, how many pounds of food are donated through this partnership,” Cohen says.

To further raise awareness about food waste reduction and management among hospitals, Practice Greenhealth is launching a “Less Food to Landfill” toolkit to more than 1,200 hospital members nationwide.

The toolkit includes a guide for establishing and measuring goals, a “get-started” guide, a five-part virtual peer learning series, case studies, posters, templates and presentations for members to use.

Some Practice Greenhealth member organizations already have acted to reduce food waste. In 2015 health care system HealthPartners, Bloomington, Minn., diverted 88 tons of food waste to livestock feed and 17 tons to a commercial compost facility. Nearly 1.5 tons was composted on site at one of its hospitals.

Montefiore Medical Center, which includes the New Rochelle campus in Westchester, N.Y., and Bronx (N.Y.) campus installed on-site food digesters that turn waste food into sewer-safe gray water. Montefiore has diverted almost 250,000 pounds of food waste from the landfill since installing the on-site digesters in September 2014.

From 2010 through 2015, Gundersen Health System, La Crosse, Wis., reduced food waste more than 80 percent by tracking the amount of food being wasted and then adjusting the amounts and methods of food preparation.  

The Feeding America network of 200 food banks prevented the discarding of 2.6 billion pounds of safe and nutritious food in 2015. Feeding America will provide nearly 4 billion meals to low-income Americans this year, which are distributed through 60,000 food pantries meal programs.

“Feeding America is extremely grateful to Practice Greenhealth for joining us in the efforts to help provide food to the millions of Americans who live at risk of hunger while also reducing food waste,” says Bill Thomas, chief supply chain officer, Feeding America.