Knowledge for better food systems

Hospital food waste study

A study by Sonnino and McWillliam investigates food waste in hospitals in Wales. The researchers look at three hospitals and find that up to 60% of the food was thrown away, with levels particularly high in elderly rehabilitation wards.  

Unsurprisingly it finds “a strong and direct correlation between the general quality of the hospital meal service and the high amount of food wasted. Specifically, with regard to bulk service, it is clear that too much food is cooked for the number of patients forecast to eat a hot meal and that such number is almost always over-estimated.”


This article aims to address the need for more comprehensive studies on sustainable food systems through a case study of hospital food waste in Wales, UK. Based on a mixed-method research approach that focused on the links between hospital food waste, catering practices and public procurement strategies, the article shows that the hospital meal system, in the case studied, is responsible for overall levels of food waste that greatly exceed the official percentages provided by the Health Board. In addition to showing the theoretical benefits of research that accounts for the complex interrelations between different stages of the food chain, the study raises the need for a more integrated political approach that mobilizes all actors in the food system around a shared vision for sustainable development.



Sonnino R and McWilliam S (2011). Food waste, catering practices and public procurement: A case study of hospital food systems in Wales, Food Policy 36, 6, 823–829

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