Hospital Catering for All: The UK tour!

Tuesday, 16 February, 2016

Our campaigns team discuss how their current tour is encouraging health care professionals to include nutritious vegan meals into their hospital catering repertoire. 

Last Thursday, we had an uplifting day at our second Hospital Catering for All workshop. We met up in a light, airy room just off The Angel Islington, with an enthusiastic group of professional health care workers to explore the multiple benefits of vegan-friendly menus.  In a day filled with friendly debate and great food, we discussed how healthy, affordable and sustainable plant-based catering can also fulfil many ethical beliefs around care for animals. 

Our campaign addresses the structural causes that mean most health care users – and particularly, vegans – struggle to get nutritious, appropriate hospital food.  

For decades, we have advocated on behalf of individual vegans in challenging situations, as well as the structural causes of those challenges. Our new hospital catering campaign takes this work to a new level as we understand that to change practices, we must first change perceptions.

The London workshop began with an introduction from our Senior Campaigner, Andrea Speranza, as she thanked everyone for attending what we knew would be an informative and positive event. Since the first workshop in October, we received lots of feedback and several testimonials from vegans who were interesting in sharing their catering experiences in hospitals. Many dietitians and caterers have also contacted us to express their support for our campaign and are eager to assist us in our mission to inform and empower patients and encourage the NHS to provide patients with the best catering service possible.  

Andrea’s warm introduction was followed by an informative presentation by our Senior Policy and Advocacy Officer, Amanda Baker, during which they explained how vegan-friendly catering encourages equality for all patients. Dr Terri Holloway, our nutrition specialist, shared the disease preventive properties of a vegan diet as well as its ability to assist in the recovery of various ailments. Attendees were then asked to put this nutrition training into practice by designing vegan menus for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The participants came up with some very creative meals, which we hope will inspire them to explore new vegan options in their prospective hospitals.

Our final presentation was given by Amanda who covered the potential cost effectiveness of vegan meals in hospitals, which is always a valuable and practical consideration for hospitals, as limited catering budgets can often prevent them from offering certain specialty items. Amanda explained how hospital caterers can get the most out of their catering budgets and still meet the needs of various dietary groups, cultures and religions. Our Senior Campaigner, Andrea Speranza closed our workshop with thanks, encouraging attendees to share what they learned with colleagues, as we realise that in order for our campaign to succeed, we all have to pitch in and support each other.  

We were thrilled by the openness of dietitians, health assistants, nurses, doctors and hospital caterers to vegan-friendly catering at this second stop in our campaign tour of England. The day was informative and fun, with lots of sharing and hopes of improved ‘catering for all’ on the horizon. Lunch was one of the high points of the day, with Thai green curry and tangy tofu from Shambhu’s catering. Shambhu’s dishes are registered with our Vegan Trademark, and are one of our longest standing catering partners.  Another long-running Vegan Trademark holder, Veggies Catering Campaign, were ably represented by their co-founder, Pat.  

We were also delighted to host Andy Jones, previous National Chair of the Hospital Caterers Association (HCA), who co-sponsored the event. Along with the HCA, and all our supporters, we want to take these messages to the entire health care community in the UK. One of the purposes of our workshops is to learn from each other. We aim to better understand health care workers and hospital caterers’ challenges and together transform them into opportunities.

Philip Shelley, current National Chair of the Hospital Catering Association says, “Working with colleagues to find solutions and choices around diets and allergies is essential to ensure that we meet everybody’s requirements.provides the Hospital Caterers Association with the expertise and confidence to support this project…”

On Thursday 19 May 2016 we will be holding– this time in Manchester.  Our campaign tour is then heading to Newcastle in June, and Bristol in September. So please invite all your local health care workers in England – your GP, your local hospital dietitians, doctors, health-care assistants, caterers, nurses etc. – to your nearest Hospital Catering for All workshop.  If you are a health care professional and would like to attend, please email terri.holloway[at]vegansociety[dot]com. 

No workshop near you?  Please talk to your local health care workers about our campaign – if you get enough interest, we might be able to arrange a workshop in your area. 

If you would like to publicly share your experience of hospital catering to support our campaign, oror help in any other way, please .

By Terri Holloway (Research Officer), Andrea Speranza (Senior Campaigner) and Amanda Baker (Senior Advocacy and Policy Officer)

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