Innovative Production Unit supplying local food to hospitals

An innovative production unit that is transforming the way thousands of meals are served to hospitals in Cornwall every week is now up and running. 

The £4.6 million Central Food Production Unit, at Barncoose, is already providing more than 12,000 high quality meals a week – sourced mainly from local produce – to the Royal Cornwall, St Michaels’ and West Cornwall Hospitals. 

The project, which received almost £2 million from the Objective One European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund and DEFRA, as well as National Health Service and local LIFT Company investment, offers tasty, healthy food to patients, staff and visitors. At the same time it boosts economic sustainability within the region by sourcing local produce and helps the environment by cutting food miles.  

Head of Hotel Services for Cornwall Healthcare Estates & Support Services (CHESS) Mike Pearson said: “This is a great opportunity, not only to continue to provide the very high standards of catering our hospitals are already acknowledged for, but also to increase our ability to support local businesses and make the most of the wonderful fresh produce that is on offer in Cornwall.  With specialist preparation space we are now able to make use of more raw materials, working with large and smaller local suppliers, to make sure we can offer meals with the nutritional benefits that can be such an important part of helping patients to get well.  There is also great potential to expand into providing food preparation and raw material processing for other local organisations.” 

Carleen Kelemen, Director of the Objective One Partnership Office, said: “This is an innovative project which brings together a number of initiatives from field-to-plate; reduction in food miles and great tasting, quality nourishment for patients both in and out of hospital. By sourcing locally, farmers, fishermen and food producers are guaranteed year round orders and their high quality products are made available for hospital patients and staff. The CFPU also has potential for expanding this ethos outside the health care environment.”  

The CFPU enables the realisation of the next steps of the innovative Cornwall NHS Food Programme, which received national acclaim and has been praised by HRH Prince Charles. The project received investment from Objective One, DEFRA and the Soil Association and encourages local produce sourcing for hospital meals and supports producers through tendering and developing products suitable for patients. 

David Rodda, Senior Agricultural Co-ordinator for the Cornwall Agricultural Council said: “After many years of planning and preparation the CFPU is now open for business and staff are busy producing quality meals for patients. It is an example of where public procurement and local sourcing can be brought together for the mutual benefit of patients, the NHS and local farmers/suppliers of produce.” 

The CFPU is helping to meet the growing challenge of providing meals at the Royal Cornwall Hospital from a kitchen that was built to cater for a considerably smaller number of patients than it now does. Everything is prepared and cooked on site, using locally grown and bought ingredients, wherever possible. Meals are prepared by the existing teams of chefs from the three hospitals in a similar way to those available at high street supermarkets. They are then transported to the hospitals to be cooked or reheated on the wards along with steamed vegetables or prepared salads.  These meals are designed to provide a healthy balanced diet, catering for a wide range of special needs and are also prepared so their nutritional value is maintained right to the point of serving. 

The building also houses a test kitchen which will allow all recipes to be tested not only for their nutritional value, but for their suitability for the food service systems to ensure that the meal is perfect when the patient receives it. The CFPU has some of the most up to date, large scale catering equipment in Cornwall, creating the opportunity to form partnerships with our local colleges to allow catering students to get to see and to work on this new equipment and to gain a greater understanding of large scale commercial catering. 

There are also plans for the CFPU to expand commercially by supplying food to other organisations in the region and to become involved in social enterprises such as peeled vegetable box schemes for pensioners. 

Roy Heath, Sustainable Food Development Manager for CHESS, said: “The units test kitchen can also be utilised as a training kitchen offering an opportunity to provide a county wide training facility to inclusion groups and those who would benefit from sourcing and cooking fresh local produce on a budget. One of our objectives is to produce a recipe book based upon our experiences in procuring locally and preparing food on a budget, but it will be much more, with a real life approach ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to access food that will be benefit their own well being. Opportunities include, private and charitable sector organizations in the County and other NHS Trusts who have shown a great deal of interest in the products and services we can offer which will ultimately benefit Cornwall.” 

The development of the food production unit has been led by the Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust, as a partnership project for the NHS across Cornwall. It was being developed as part of the NHS LIFT (Local Improvement Finance Trust) initiative in Cornwall by Community 1st Cornwall Limited, the local LIFT Company and NHS infrastructure development partner, in which the RCHT is a shareholder. This is the first LIFT project to be signed between Community 1st Cornwall and the Acute Trust and demonstrates the breadth of regeneration activities LIFT can participate in and successfully deliver to improve Cornwall’s health and social care and support services infrastructure.    

Rod Hulme, Director of Community 1st Cornwall said “Community 1st Cornwall is delighted to have been involved in the development of the food production unit which will help the Cornwall food programme deliver its objectives. The LIFT programme aims to support sustainable regeneration across Cornwall through new developments such as this.”

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