SLH Hospitals Partake in Composting Initiative

Canton-Potsdam Hospital and Massena Hospital are working with Whitten Family Farm of Winthrop on a massive composting partnership.

Nov. 28, 2022 4   min read

Canton-Potsdam Hospital Food Service WorkerTrevor Boprey scrapes patient food leftovers into a compost bin, which willlater be dumped into a larger container and hauled away for composting atWhitten Farm.

MASSENA/POTSDAM, NY – What started out as a program for one of St. Lawrence Health’s (SLH) hospitals to become engaged in a community initiative, quickly turned into involvement from a second hospital, and its third hospital will not be far behind.

Canton-Potsdam Hospital and Massena Hospital are working with Whitten Family Farm of Winthrop on a massive composting partnership. SLH Director of Food and Nutrition Services Lauren Prentice, MS, RDN, CDN, is overseeing the system’s expanded sustainability project with the local farm.

Mrs. Prentice noted SLH first began supporting the Town and Village of Potsdam’s Climate Smart Communities Program via Canton-Potsdam Hospital, and Massena Hospital followed suite a short time after. 

Food waste that previously ended up in the hospitals’ trash or down the garbage disposal is now being deposited into bins provided and picked up by Whitten Farm. Whitten’s currently picks up the waste two to three times a week, based on the location. As bins are picked up, clean ones are delivered to replace them.

“There are many reasons to compost. Repurposing food waste versus adding to landfills or water systems is more sustainable for our environment and decreases greenhouse gas. SLH is one of the largest food service operations within St. Lawrence County and by composting, we are doing our part and setting a tone for sustainability,” Mrs. Prentice said.

"We are encouraged by Canton-Potsdam Hospital's voluntary effort to compost their food waste and support [Whitten Farm’s] new local business," said Co-Chair of the Potsdam Climate Smart Communities Task Force Rose Rivezzi. "This is a sustainable waste management initiative that we hope other local businesses also initiate."

“Composting is one way to show our commitment to our local communities, and in addition, supporting a local business,” Mrs. Prentice added.

The project has been on-going for approximately two months and hospital dietary staff are more aware and mindful about production waste and overproduction waste. They have been coming up with ways to use extra ingredients, improve production skills, and learn about the potential cost savings. 

“Seeing the creativity grow among our teams has increased employee engagement. Our next step is focusing on reducing the overall waste and cost saving initiatives,” Mrs. Prentice said.

Currently, the dietary staff is focusing on patient services, production waste, and over production waste. The following phase will be to include café customers in the composting process.

Mrs. Prentice is currently reviewing a safe and efficient way to transport Gouverneur Hospital’s food waste to one of two possible locations. While efforts are being made to determine how Gouverneur will participate, all three SLH hospitals will continue with the Waste Not program from Morrison Healthcare. Waste Not is used in addition to the composting initiative and provides a better sense of the cost/potential cost savings.