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Sustainable Kitchens?

When I left my corporate job last year, in addition to knowing I needed the time and flexibility to take care of my parents, my one big desire was to launch a business that focused on helping healthcare institutions make the shift in their foodservice operations toward more local sourcing and healthier and more “sustainable” back-to-scratch food preparation (more on the rather loaded word “sustainable” later).

Life, though, has a way of telling you when your focus needs to be somewhere other than where you think you want it, and with everything else I’ve had on my plate (haha) in the past few months, I have to admit that I haven’t been able to spend as much time on pursuing that big desire as I had imagined I would. This makes me feel more than a little sheepish, considering it’s nearly all I talked about for weeks in the advent of, and after I left my job, and I had a bunch of people cheerleading for me. I hope I haven’t lost everyone yet. . .

I did set several goals for myself to attain around this before the end of March, though, and this week I’ve been able to re-focus on them and do a few things to get me back on track. Next week, there will be more. In the same way I committed to myself to getting the first draft of my book completed (done), and getting this blog going (done, if messy), and completing an advanced 13-week investing course (almost done), and getting my parents’ former house cleaned out and sold (done), and getting my grandmother’s house through probate she passed away in October), cleaned out and sold (almost done – closing should be in the next 2 weeks), I can now commit to getting back on the path with this.

Meanwhile, though, let me catch you up to where I *am.* Once I left my job, I dove into research around hospitals and healthcare systems and healthier, more “sustainable,” more local food initiatives. I was beyond excited when I came across a chef named Justin Johnson, based in Wisconsin, who first, had been someone named in one of dozens of case studies I’d read, having transformed the foodservice operations of a hospital in Wisconsin. Then, after he had that hospital’s revamped program up and running successfully, he decided to take what he’d developed there, and build a company around it, with a repeatable “toolkit” that could be applied to any foodservice operation. He called it Sustainable|Kitchens (which I’m going to abbreviate as “SK”). Their model provides the structure to first fully assess a current operation, then, based upon the findings of that assessment, create, and if desired, assist the organization in successfully implementing, a plan to shift the operation to one that sources locally; migrate preparation approaches to “back-to-scratch;” and, in so doing, create a more sustainable operation. (SK, by the way, isn’t just focused on healthcare – they can do what they do for any institution with a foodservice operation).

Now for a word on “sustainability,” the definition of which, for many, focuses on activities that consume less than their output provides back to the environment. Before I connected with Justin, I was one of probably millions of people (maybe you’re one of them, too) who just assumed that making “sustainability”-related changes in operations would be more expensive to organizations who chose to do it than what they’d been doing before. I had been steeling myself for the case that would have to be made to convince organizations that, in spite of this, it was worth it to take the plunge anyway: that the health benefits to patients and staff, the opportunities to engage the community, the great P.R. possibilities, would balance and mitigate any increase in cost. Plus, as one administrator I spoke with during my research told me, it would just feel good, because “it’s the right thing to do.”

To Justin, though, the word “sustainable” *must* include a financial element as well (to be fair, I’m sure he’s not the only one). In other words, making this kind of change has to have positive financial impact, or it will always be in the crosshairs of future “cost-cutting” initiatives, which are a constant concern for healthcare (and most other organizations). Mind? Blown. I mean, duh – of course, as a person who worked for the better part of my corporate career helping clients do things that made them more cost-effective, this made perfect sense, but I hadn’t heard much of it in the world of sustainable food practices.

What Justin and SK had developed was sound. It was proven with multiple organizations over several years, and it was, above all, exciting. I changed my plan, scrapping the idea of creating something on my own, and offered to help him and SK expand their reach here in the Northeast. And for the next month, barring any unforeseen crises, that is going to be my primary focus.

Get a peek here into how SK’s magic works, and see if you think it’s as exciting as I do. If you do, I’d love to hear from you!

Bon appetit!!


  1. Hi Firemica! You haven’t lost me yet! Great post. Rebecca

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