6/15/2015 12:29 PM
I would like to start out by saying that I am not a beekeeper. However, honeybees have truly captured my attention and passion. Honeybees are the only insect in the world that contributes to the growth and production of human food and have been around for thousands of years. The honeybee is responsible for 1/3 of all the food we put in our mouth and currently, the honeybee population is declining in numbers at an alarming rate. Our honeybee population is quickly dwindling. Last year, experts noted that there was a 31 percent decline in honeybees. Being in food service most of my life, the pairing between the honeybee and me was inevitable!
I collaborated with Bee Bold Apiaries to install and maintain beehives on the roof of Overlook Medical center where I am the food service director. I felt that this would be a significant way to contribute to agricultural sustainability and enjoy the harvest of our own honey. It can be as simple as putting it on a flat rooftop of a business and in fact, they are plentiful in New York City and surrounding suburban areas. This initiative also ties in nicely to our hospitals commitment to healthier communities and greener solutions.
To complement this initiative, we also started a vegetable garden onsite at Overlook. As the bees would ultimately pollinate the vegetable blossoms, we would use our vegetables in our menu. It is about 96 square feet of gardening and my department with hospital volunteers, maintains it, fertilize and weed it, and help it grow. I have wanted to do that for quite some time and we will soon reap the rewards! Both the honey and the produce will be featured in our retail outlets as well as our farmer’s markets. We are also going to make lip balm and lotions from the bees wax for retail in our gift shop. We will have about 60 lobs of honey to sell. A plus is the buzz in terms of our foodservice brand and in terms of the revenue, it is generating. Wow!
There is a huge opportunity for honeybee awareness and education. We are arranging to have a live video stream of the two hives we have so that anyone can observe him or her working. Many who have watched have claimed it to be therapeutic in itself. I encourage community events with schools and special interest groups so that they can come to see what their local hospital is doing to improve overall health and well-being. The hives are in plain view from cafeteria windows so everyone dining in there can observe them there, too. This initiative is something I am so proud of and we hope to be a model for institutions statewide that they, too, can help our honeybee population.
A winning combination: Sustainability initiative, therapeutic for all, making a difference in lives we touch while elevating the foodservice brand and generating revenue!
Have you started any sustainable initiatives? Share with me or if I can help, you contact me.
Written by Michael Antansio, Director Food and Nutrition Services, Overlook Hospital