Joshna Maharaj

Joshna Maharaj, chef and good food champion at Scarborough General Hospital

Local Food Hero 2012

Joshna is a chef, innovator, community animator and champion of healthy hospital food. She has been leading the brigade in several Toronto hospitals to get healthier, more wholesome and homemade meals back on the plates of recovering patients and hospital staff. An article on Joshna appeared in the Life and Entertainment section of the Toronto Star on March 21st, highlighting the work she has done around revolutionizing the menu and food served to patients at Scarborough General Hospital. Funds provided by the Greenbelt Foundation were aimed at providing local healthy food for people in institutions.

Unique Food System Problem

According to Maharaj, quoted in the Toronto Star article, “Everybody knew that the food they’d been serving [at the hospital] needed to change.” The link between health and nutritious food has been well recognized and it is only fitting that hospital patients are fed healthy, safe, and nutritious food instead of the low-budget meals that are currently provided in hospitals across Canada. Patient satisfaction is very low.

Unique Food System Solution

Maharaj’s mission is to “prove that scratch cooking is a feasible panacea in this publicly funded, cash-strapped system.” Maharaj has begun to do this by shifting the hospital’s food procurement to produce that is local and sustainable. A grant attained from the Greenbelt Fund has further allowed her to overhaul the patient menu, basing it on items made from scratch and sourced from Ontario farmers. In 2011-2012, Maharaj re-vamped Scarborough Hospital’s menu to include old-fashioned recipes containing local, whole foods. She also reorganized the work flow in the kitchen and re-trained kitchen staff to meet the needs of this healthier approach to feeding patients. Maharaj has continued this work throughout 2012 at St. Mike’s Hospital and hopes to carry it on into the future to strengthen the programs she has started, while also incubating new ones.