Sustainable hospital food service: restoring health and prosperity to rural Montana

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Montana is a large, sparsely populated agricultural state experiencing both rural economic decline and high rates of chronic disease related to poor nutrition. Pursuing a more sustainable and self–reliant food system may help alleviate both of these problems. This investigation explores the sustainable practices foodservice directors in Montana’s rural hospitals are implementing, their challenges and opportunities. A case study of one innovative rural hospital demonstrates the feasibility of incorporating sustainable practices, and reveals local food purchasing in particular as an excellent way to support the local agricultural economy and build social capital while addressing the mission of the institution. An in–depth investigation of this foodservice and interviews with ten additional hospital foodservice directors provided an initial assessment of the extent to which rural Montana hospitals are engaging in sustainable practices, and particularly local food purchasing. Key challenges include financial constraints, concerns about food safety, existing contractual relationships, and staff training needs. Conversely, the continued reliance on scratch cooking in rural hospitals is seen as a significant opportunity, and several hospitals studied have gardens on–site. Conclusions include resources for foodservice directors who wish to integrate sustainable policies and practices in rural hospital foodservice operations.




Montague Jennifer, Jessica Wilcox, Alison H. Harmon. Sustainable Hospital Food Service: Restoring Health and Prosperity to Rural Montana. Austin Journal of Nutrition and Food Sciences 2014;2(2): 1014.
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