Kitchen staff at Community Howard Regional Health work hard to prepare meals and snacks for patients, guests, and staff at the hospital, but now they’re making sure dogs and cats have enough to eat, too.
Recently, the hospital began a new initiative to reduce waste in the kitchen by repurposing scraps from fresh fruits and vegetables. Now, instead of trashing the nearly 20 pounds of leftovers a day, it’s turned into dog-bone shaped treats for cats and dogs at the Kokomo Humane Society.
“We decided it was a worthwhile thing to do. It’s not really labor-intensive for us, and we’re using all of our waste now from fruits and vegetables,” said Jennifer Stewart, director of food services at Community Howard Regional Health.
The idea for the endeavor came after Stewart was reading a food magazine that featured a college in Wisconsin that was turning scraps into treats for shelter pets. Stewart said she thought, “Why couldn’t we do that?”
Stewart reached out to the Howard County Board of Health, which directed her to a chemist at Purdue University, to formulate a recipe that would be safe for pets. Since only scraps from fruits and vegetables are being used, Stewart said it was very easy to learn the ins and outs of what can and can’t go into the treats. The items that can’t be used made a short list: raisins, grapes, and onions.
Now, instead of trashing the scraps, like cantaloupe and pineapple rinds, the ends of tomatoes and strawberries, and potato and sweet potato skins, they’re run through a grinder and used to make the pet treats.
“We monitor that waste anyway, but then we throw it away. That’s a lot of food to go to waste, so now we’re using all of it,” Stewart said.
The contents are ground into a puree before trained kitchen staff add flour to make a dough, roll it out, cut it into dog-bone shaped pieces, and bake it. Depending on what fruits and vegetables were used the most that day, the flavors change. Stewart and others at the hospital have been sampling the treats, and some, she said, have had a strong broccoli flavor, while others have tasted like melon.
Since getting the initiative rolling about a month ago, the hospital has made upwards of 400 bones that have been taken to the Kokomo Humane Society and given to the dogs and cats.
Last week, Susan Johnson and Michelle Rhinamon, who work in the kitchen and have been making the treats, delivered more bones to the Kokomo Humane Society. The pair, alongside Kokomo Humane Society Director Karen Wolfe, made rounds through the dog kennels, passing out the treats to the eager canines.
Wolfe said many of the dogs like the treats even more than traditional treats. She speculated that it’s because they’re made entirely out of “human” food.
The program, said Wolfe, is a win-win for everyone.
“I like so much about it. I like that we have this partnership. I like that dogs get treats. I like that they’re using their extra food. It’s just a win-win-win all across the board. It’s really nice,” said Wolfe.
Rhinamon said it’s been fun to turn what essentially was trash into something that brings such joy to the animals.
“It’s fun. It’s our way to give back where we don’t have all the waste, and it makes the kitties and doggies so happy,” she said.