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VANIHCS presented 2023 Governor's Awards for Environmental Excellence

VA Northern Indiana employees posing with Indiana Governor, Eric Holcomb.
Nutrition and Food Service staff accepting Governor's Awards for Environmental Excellence from Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb.

Every year the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) awards the Governor’s Awards for Environmental Excellence in six different categories.

VA Northern Indiana Health Care System (VANIHCS) is proud to announce that VANIHCS Nutrition and Food Service has won the 2023 Greening the Government category.

The Governor's Awards for Environmental Excellence are Indiana’s most significant environmental recognition awards. These awards are reserved for the most innovative, sustainable, and exemplary programs that positively impact Indiana’s environment.

Through the combined efforts of multiple services, VANIHCS N&FS has achieved reduction of food waste, garden to table produce production, harvesting their own maple syrup, and have implemented new practices such as bio-digestion, composting, and the offset of harmful greenhouse gasses.

Reduction of Food Waste and Community Hunger

VANIHCS N&FS has successfully donated a total 2,522 food boxes through the VANIHCS food pantry.

“The total value of the boxes that have been distributed to our communities stands at $55,484.00 and continues to grow with each pantry event. We also donate what we can to our local mission, so the food won’t go to waste”, said Lindsay Bartrom, Chief of N&FS.

N&FS also utilizes a biodigester and compost to reduce VANIHCS carbon footprint and help manage food waste.

“Our biodigester biologically digests organic material, which then can go safely down the drain to divert waste from landfills”, said Bartrom.

Harvesting Maple Syrup

VA Northern Indiana’s Marion Campus has also become the first facility to harvest their own maple syrup. In 2023, VANIHCS collected approximately 825 gallons of sap and has produced 17 gallons of maple syrup. VANIHCS goal in future years is to produce enough pure maple syrup to replace what is being purchased and donate any additional maple syrup to the Veterans food pantry.

Garden to Table

In addition to the food waste diversion, N&FS has helped also create and expand a facility garden that provides garden to table nutrition to the Veterans living in the long-term care units and in 2020, N&FS started utilizing produce from the garden for Veteran menus and services.

“We grow key lime, lemon, banana, mango, dragon fruit, passion fruit, guava, cherries, pears, apples, peaches, figs, plums, pomegranate gooseberries, pumpkins, traditional vegetables, herbs and so much more”, Aaron Robinson, Therapeutic Garden Program Coordinator.

In all, N&FS grew a total of 1,694.3 lbs of food with a cost savings $5,932.45. The total for digestion of food waste stands at 39,132 lbs.

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