Chef Joshna Maharaj Transforms Hospital Food One Tray at a Time

 - Sep 26, 2011
References: tedxtoronto
Chef, writer and good food advocate Joshna Maharaj shared the stage today with several innovative thinkers and revolutionaries each presenting their own unique vision of the future at the inspiring TEDxToronto conference. Hoping to revolutionize our somewhat shameful approach to food, Maharaj has singled hospitals out as being in a unique position to make a positive change in the way we feed ourselves.

The mere mention of hospital food is enough to turn the stomach and send shudders down your spine. Maharaj quite rightly points out that there is nothing more respectful than serving the sick good, wholesome food. Sadly, in most hospitals across the country, this is not the case. According to Maharaj, the average patient is being served "edible food-like substances" rather than the real deal. Only a shocking $10 is spent per bed per day on the three meals patients consume; more disconcertingly, what little nutrition is in these meals is being sent back to the kitchen. Over 40 percent of the food served to patients is deemed inedible by the diner and condemned to the carburetor.

Exposing the real problems that face our health care system and our perceived lack of respect for the healing powers of food, Maharaj is armed with a solution. Exuding passion and energy, Maharaj recounted her vision of menu options for those recovering. Her options are simple and cheap, yet wholesome and sustainable. She cites a ripe peach as a possible meal option, or even a simple salad. Maharaj also sees how this nutritious shift can impact other causes as well. Using Scarborough General as a guinea pig, Maharaj began ordering Ontario produce to be served to Ontario patients, thus enlisting Ontario tax dollars to support local farmers. A farmer's market cropped up adjacent to the hospital, and cooking classes were offered to the staff and patients. Jars of soup and baked goods that were made in the hospital were available for sale in the gift shop.

Pegging good food as the ultimate cure of all that ails us, Maharaj is on a crusade to improve the lives and businesses of countless people, and she's doing this one Ontario-grown peach at a time. If we change the passive way in which we approach food and reap its natural benefits, the possibilities for our further social progress are endless.