Microwave meals: Eastern Health making changes to food services

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Microwave meals: Eastern Health making changes to food services

There are changes coming to the food services system at Eastern Health, and officials say it will mean greater choice and less waste.

Eastern Health's president and chief executive officer, David Diamond, announced Monday that the traditional method where meals are prepared at the authority's off-site central kitchen and delivered to acute care sites in St. John's will be phased out in the coming months.

It is being replaced by a system called "steamplicity," which relies on microwave technology to heat the meals.

The system was designed by Morrison Health Care Food Services, which manages food services at Eastern Health and is a division of Compass Group Canada.

"This has served us well over the years, and our employees in that area are fantastic," Diamond told reporters during a news conference. "But technology has changed and improved over time."

Eastern Health will establish a new, smaller food services "cuisine centre" site, according to a statement.  

As a result, the Central Kitchen site at Pippy Place will close and employees will either be redeployed to food services at city hospitals or to the new cuisine centre.

23 employees affected, but no job losses

Diamond stressed that the work is not being contracted out to Morrison, and that Eastern Health employees will continue to provide the service. 

The change will affect roughly 23 full-time equivalent positions, but Diamond said he is "confident" they will all be accommodated as the switch is made to Steamplicity.

Diamond said patients will be able to place an order for meals, much the same as they would at a restaurant.

These orders are transmitted to an off-site production centre that is smaller than the current central kitchen, where the meals are made from frozen food and later transported to the facility, where they are microwaved and delivered to the patient.

According to the Compass Group's website, Steamplicity "cooks fresh food to perfection, ensuring all the taste and all the vitality, and delivering high quality, fresh and nutritious meals."

Meals are placed in special packaging, and microwave energy is used to create steam from the water in the raw ingredients.

A unique valve control system regulates pressure throughout the cooking process, ensuring the meal is cooked quickly and with consistency, according to the website.

"The result is hot, delicious food which retains its essential nutrients, where the flavour and texture of the food are preserved."

Diamond announced the switch to Steamplicity while outlining a broad range of initiatives aimed at saving the health authority $19 million annually.

He did not say if the Steamplicity initiative will result in savings.