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Oliver Dunne: Why is hospital food so poor? We can make it better

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Oliver Dunne

Oliver Dunne

Hospital food is not as good as it should be argues, top chef Oliver Dunne

Hospital food is not as good as it should be argues, top chef Oliver Dunne

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Oliver Dunne

Hospital food in Ireland is terrible.

There may be some exceptions but, in general, it’s widely regarded as unappetising and tasteless food that’s cooked badly and more often than not has little or no nutritional value.

Surely at a time when the body is sick and at its weakest, recovering from illness or surgery, a nutritious diet is paramount to a speedy recovery.

Everybody knows that chips, frozen pizzas, sausage rolls, cheap burgers, fry-ups etc are detrimental to our health.

With the growing obesity epidemic, our health service should lead by example and stop serving this rubbish in our hospitals. Food such as this has been served for decades and it’s about time for a change. 

We are constantly being warned about the negative health implications of a poor diet.

Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and cancers are all potential associated risks – but our hospitals are in the Dark Ages when it comes to catering.

Over the past three years I’ve spent a lot of time in Dublin hospitals and I’m constantly amazed, shocked and infuriated at the food being served. 

laziness

I have asked myself time and time again “Why is the standard of food so poor”? Three years on I’m still asking myself the same question and this time I hope to have an answer.

I’d relish the chance to get into a hospital and learn what’s going on and why it is failing to provide an adequate offering. 

From the outside I can only offer an educated guess.  There are three possibilities:  the system doesn’t encourage creativity and in turn chefs are supressed and overruled; senior catering management is stuck in a rut and has lost the passion required; or it’s just laziness.

A few slight changes would have an enormous impact.

Firstly, the HSE should insist that all of their hospitals serve the same food to patients on a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly menu plan. This alone would generate major savings due to increased purchasing power . 

Standardising the menus would make it much easier to deliver a consistent product.

The menu choices also need to be revised by experienced and passionate chefs, then signed off by a senior nutritionist. 

Exact recipes, methods and cooking times should also be recorded and logged to ensure consistency. The dishes themselves have to be created with mass producing in mind – not all dishes are suitable for serving in large quantities.

These are just a few of the many basic changes that would make a substantial difference to the overall quality, consistency, nutritional value and taste of hospital food.

quality

The public support I’ve received so far on this topic has been amazing and as a result I have secured a meeting with Health Minister Leo Varadkar on December 19. 

I intend to ask the minister to support this campaign and assist me in securing access to a Dublin hospital where I can work with the team and get a first-hand understanding of life in a hospital kitchen.

I will then report my findings and suggestions to the minister and, hopefully, we can start the process of improving hospital food for the better.

When it comes to hospital food we need to #makeitbetter

Oliver Dunne is a Michelin-starred chef, who runs Bon Appetit restaurant in Malahide


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