Press release

Vancouver General Hospital pilots new plant-rich menu items for health of patients and planet

Photo of plant-rich menu items on a tray on a patient's lap.

For the past six months, inpatients receiving care at Vancouver Coastal Health’s (VCH) Vancouver General Hospital have been able to fuel their healing with a diverse selection of new delicious, nutritious and environmentally sustainable menu items, thanks to a Planetary Health Menu Pilot project.

“Vancouver Coastal Health is committed to continually improving the patient experience and food is an important part of this,” said Darcia Pope, Vice-President, Strategy, Innovation and Planetary Health at Vancouver Coastal Health. “We started this project with the goal of creating flavourful, comforting meals using fresh, nutritionally dense ingredients so that patients had appealing food options to help them in their healing and recovery. We also recognized that this project presented an opportunity to look at how we could adjust our food services program to be more environmentally sustainable.”

The Planetary Health Menu Pilot project was led by Dr. Annie Lalande, surgical resident and PhD student in Resources, Environment and Sustainability at University of British Columbia (UBC), and Tiffany Chiang, Director, Food Service Transformation and Strategic Projects at VCH. They brought together food services staff, dietitians, clinicians and planetary health experts to work alongside Ned Bell, renowned chef and sustainable food champion, in developing the menu items.

More than 20 new menu items have been developed to offer patients a diversity of choices, incorporating patient preferences and ingredients with lower environmental impacts. These include dishes such as Steelhead Trout with Tomato Miso Dressing, Creamy Coconut Chickpea Curry with Cauliflower and Cashews, served with Mango Chutney and a Korean Gochujang Bowl. The new dishes were evaluated by patient partners who provided valuable feedback on the meal’s desirability during times of illness. Dishes that were favourably reviewed were served on a trial basis to inpatients at Vancouver General Hospital. Feedback was solicited through surveys and interviews throughout the process, and helped tailor the dishes to patient preferences. Food waste rates were also measured to complement patient feedback in determining how the new dishes were received.

“We’ve long used the phrase ‘food is medicine’ and we’re finding that this is true not only for patients but for our planet as well,” says Dr. Annie Lalande. “Providing tasty, nutritious meals, which is critical to recovery from illness and injury, also presents a significant opportunity to decrease our environmental footprint by focusing on lower-impact ingredients.”

“Sustainable food and food systems have been a passion of mine throughout my career,” says Chef Ned Bell. “Working to develop menu items that are sustainable and also appeal to a wide variety of tastes on such a massive scale was challenging, but the work we’ve done here has been so rewarding.”

The Planetary Health Menu Pilot has recently concluded. During the coming months, following data analysis, the menu items that patients enjoyed the most will be incorporated into menus across VCH.

This is the first project funded by the Vancouver Coastal Health Boehringer Ingelheim Collaboration (VCH-BI), a partnership announced in 2023 that provides flexible seed funding for innovation initiatives in the areas of planetary health, Indigenous health and chronic disease, and supported by the VGH + UBC Hospital Foundation.

This project was also supported by Greener By Default, who worked in collaboration with the project team on menu consultation, education and evaluation. As participants in Nourish’s second Anchor Cohort during the development of this pilot project, VCH became early adopters of their Planetary Health Menu Program.

Planetary health refers to the interdependent relationship between the health of our communities and the health of the environment, and is an area of increasing concern for health systems. VCH takes a two-pronged approach to planetary health, recognizing the need for both climate change mitigation and adaptation. Learn more about VCH’s commitment to environmental sustainability and accountability as well as other planetary health initiatives at: