Case study: MN hospital fights to slash food costs

At the University of Minnesota Medical Center's Fairview Campus, they're fighting a battle that is echoed at hospitals across the U.S. With food prices rising, the facility is finding it increasingly hard to manage its food bills, which have been rising rapidly. Over the past year, the cost of meal ingredients at Fairview has gone up 6 percent, as have grocery bills for consumers across the Midwest. To date, the hospital has only raised cafeteria prices 3.2 percent, but it can't continue to sustain losses forever. To cope, the culinary managers have been forced to adopt a variety of creative tactics to stay within the facility's $4.5 million annual food budget.

Among the strategies it has adopted: buying more local produce, cooking its entrées in smaller batches and switching from disposable to reusable kitchenware. It's also shaving away at supply costs wherever possible. For example, it switched from black plastic foam plates to white recently, a step which will save $13,000 per year if the hospital stays with it. Another small savings came when it switched brands of chicken tenders, cutting $5,000 in annual costs. Meanwhile, the cafeteria has cut some most costly items, such as tomatoes for hamburgers, from the budget completely. And oriental chicken salad is no longer available, because mandarin oranges became too pricey.

To learn more about the hospital's food expense strategy:
- read this Minneapolis Star-Tribune piece