About the Author

Joshna Maharaj

Books by this Author
Take Back the Tray

Take Back the Tray

Revolutionizing Food in Hospitals, Schools, and Other Institutions
also available: eBook Audiobook
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As we got down to the wire, we raced around getting food set on the belt line for service. We put a little note from Rod on the trays, mentioning that everything was scratch-made and locally sourced. The plates were bright and alive, with food that looked delicious and drew you in. There was real, honest flavour and the distinct taste of care and attention. I loved seeing Rod on the line with the tray assembly team and savoured how obviously proud and happy everyone was about the meal we were serving that day. Rod and I excitedly took a tray up to a patient in the orthopaedic ward who had a broken leg. We explained what we were doing, and that he was the first one to receive this awesome local lunch. This patient couldn’t believe his luck and exclaimed about how delicious the tray looked. The patient in the bed beside him asked urgently whether he would be receiving this tray too, and it was really nice to finally be able to say yes.


Our team reported notably clean plates when the trays came back down, and there was even a bit of food leftover for the staff to have a taste. I wanted the team to see what was possible in that kitchen and that I wanted to help them get there. Many staff came up to me later with all sorts of thoughtful ideas for how to adjust our operations to make meals like this happen. That service was definitely a hustle, and we were all pretty exhausted, but I was so grateful that we had the chance to do this, and that it worked. In the deep of a February winter in Ontario we served an all-local lunch made from scratch for hospital patients. And when I reconciled numbers at the end of service, I learned that we only spent an additional $0.33/person for ingredients for that day’s lunch. It’s a relatively small investment for an exponentially better dining experience for patients. But, yes, it’s an investment, and we do actually have to spend some more money on patient meals.


I recently ran into Rod and was telling him about having just written about our time together cooking lunch at The Scarborough Hospital. His face lit up, and he reminded me that the woman who works on the internal hospital switchboard told us that in 21 years, our lunch was the first patient meal that received no complaints. “The first meal in 21 years with no complaints!” he exclaimed. “That’s a pretty clear message, if you ask me.”


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