Let’s GROW!

I am thrilled and delighted to introduce our first wheelchair accessible garden at Toronto Rehab, Bickle Center! We’re calling it GROW, for Garden Rehab On Wheels. A lot of green thumbs and grey matter went into designing this new venture. See for yourself!

This is the stellar Green Team after our first meeting of the season – our gardening champions are from recreational therapy, speech language therapy, nursing, clinical nutrition, spiritual care, volunteer resources, maintenance, management and administration.

The TR Bickle Green Team received funding from TD Friends of the Environment to Continue reading

How have you bean?

To bean or not to bean? That is the question…. While occidental culture has not made us big fans of beans, chickpeas and lentils, some international experts have crunched some numbers and confirmed what Jack knew from the start:  those are quite magical.

Indeed, pulse-based proteins are one of the most efficient, sustainable and scalable sources of protein we have to meet increasing demand from our growing population. As a result, the UN secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon has officially named 2016 the International Year of Pulses (#IYP2016).


Pulses are a subcategory of legumes and include dried peas, beans, chickpeas and lentils – Photo credits: CIAT International Center for Tropical Agriculture

Here is why I love pulses so much Continue reading

The Drugs in my Food’s Food

Resistance FilmLast Thursday, 150+ healthcare professionals and students gathered at Mt Sinai Hospital for the Screening of Resistance, an award-winning documentary on antibiotic resistance as part of the International Antibiotic Awareness Week. ICYMI, here are some highlights of the movie and a panel discussion starring some major players in the field:

  • Dr Andrew Morris, General Internal Medicine/Infectious Diseases Physician and Medical Director of the MSH/UHN Antimicrobial Stewardship Program,
  • Elizabeth Leung, Antimicrobial Stewardship Pharmacist at St. Michael’s Hospital and
  • Harry Stoddart, Ontario livestock farmer and author of Real Dirt, An Ex-Industrial Farmer’s Guide to Sustainable Eating

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Your invitation awaits: “Resistance” Screening, Nov 18

The enviro-minded food-nerd that I am can’t help but get all warm & fuzzy when I hear doctors talkin’ about the future of food in medicine and medicine in food. So yes, I confess, I couldn’t find a better way to spend my last weekend than watching the full webcast of reTHINKfood 2015. The 3 day conference on technology, big data and the future of food was organized by MIT Media Lab, the Culinary Institute of America and counted IDEO as sponsor. Needless to say some of the best thinkers were around the table, and it couldn’t end with a better topic: “Revolutions in Healthcare: Impacts on the Future of the Food Industry” . I leave the suspense intact and invite everyone to take 90min off your busy schedule and watch this one session. This is really worth it… Ok, I’ll give you one clue: expect to see food take a bigger place in healthcare in the future.

Resistance Film

Keeping up with the pace of research and knowledge today is clearly a challenge. What better than a screening and panel discussion to up the ante? Take for example the initiative connecting the food system and healthcare coming to our neck of the woods, on Toronto University strip:  The MSH/UHN Antimicrobial Stewardship Program is hosting a documentary screening and panel discussion around  the movie Resistance, on November 18, 2015, as part of Antibiotic Awareness Week 2015.

Resistance is an award-winning documentary that toured across North American universities and healthcare systems. It takes a hard look at antibiotic use in healthcare and agriculture, and discusses the paradox of limiting antibiotic use in healthcare, while the major user of antibiotics – namely conventional livestock farmers – get to use antibiotics as a preventive method.

To give you some perspective, the Canadian livestock industry consumes more than 1.6 million kilograms of antibiotics every year, according to the Canadian Animal Health Institute. 80% of all antibiotics used in Canada are used for livestock. The antibiotics used in animal agriculture are often closely related to those used for human therapy, and there is a growing body of evidence that links the overuse of antibiotics in agriculture to antibiotic resistance in human pathogens. Continue reading

UHN Gardens Show off their Harvest

Let me start with some local food hot news:

Did you know? Up until now, Ontario chicken farmers had only two options: either buy an average $1.75 million quota (i.e. some sort of license) for the right to produce a minimum of 90,000 birds a year… or buy no quota and produce a maximum of 300 birds a year that they could only sell at their farm gate. No wonder Ontario alternatives to conventionally raised chicken are not available to our hospitals. It’s hardly available to anyone!

Here is the good news: Chicken Farmers of Ontario (CFO) just announced a portfolio of new “flocking options” (600 to 3,000 birds) that will support expanded business opportunities for Ontario small and medium chicken farmers. Next stumbling block…. getting small abattoirs to process the chicken, since Ontario ones have all been closed down.

Yes – as you now know – it takes a lot to serve Ontario food to our patients, unless…

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Book Review: Darwinian Agriculture

jpegSeems like these days, every enviro-minded, hippie-dippie, socially-conscious-consumer has an opinion about organic farming,  farm animal welfare and GMOs. But how much do we really know about this big field that is agricultural science?

Turns out, even the most knowledgeable food scientists might not know it all. I was amazed to find out that many researchers forget to consider Darwin’s theory of evolution in their practice. Wait a minute … genetics is the basis of crop science. How can this be ignored?

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What does it take to serve local food to our patients?

That’s the question we investigated for the past year with the input of nearly 700 members of the UHN community. You shared your expertise in interviews, sent your ideas online, shared your soothing foods on post-it notes, dug into complexity at conversations cafés, responded to surveys, and even gave your feedback on a fantastic Ontario soup made by Chef Geremy Capone at the ELLICSR kitchen. We couldn’t hope for better participation. Thank you!

What we found is that our food system at UHN is complex and well, … serving more local food to our patients is not as simple as tree to tray. So we created a 3-minute animation video to explain how things work:

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