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…back to Visioning Sessions

5.1 Background

Ottawa’s Hospital of the 21st Century project stemmed from talks of constructing an entirely new hospital campus to replace the aging Civic campus in Ottawa.


As stated on their website devoted to the new campus and its construction:

The Ottawa Hospital’s vision is to build a new Civic Campus – a 21st century hospital – in the heart of the nation’s capital that will meet the health-care needs of the communities it serves for the next 100 years.

The proximity of the Central Experimental Farm lands has led to revaluation of the potential sites for this new campus and also opened conversation on the potential to take advantage of the process to include space for food production in the new campus design.

We will provide access to green spaces, gardens, walking and cycling paths, and quiet areas for reflection to promote and even hasten recovery. We will study healthy foods in partnership with experts from the food systems sector and other community organizations. We will emphasize with our patients the importance of nutrition and healthy eating, and how they promote wellness.  (Development Principles)

In June 2016, the CEO and the Director of Food and Logistics of The Ottawa Hospital (TOH) met with the principal investigators of Project SOIL, along with students selected from Carleton University’s Health: Science, Technology and Policy graduate program and the head of Algonquin College’s Horticulture program to discuss The Hospital of the 21st Century project.
Visioning session members:

  • Phil Mount (Principal Investigator of Project SOIL (Shared Opportunity on Institutional Lands)
Edana Cassol (Health Sciences, Carleton University)
  • Vanessa Handley (Health: Science, Technology, Policy, Carleton University)
  • Dania Koudieh (Health: Science, Technology, Policy, Carleton University)
  • Alex Marshall (Health: Science, Technology, Policy, Carleton University)
  • Fatimah Mirza (Health: Science, Technology, Policy, Carleton University)
  • Charles Ozzoude (Health: Science, Technology, Policy, Carleton University)
  • Irena Knezevic (Co-Investigator, Project SOIL / School of Journalism and Communication, Carleton University)
  • Cameron Love (COO, TOH)
  • Kevin Peters (Director of Food Services, TOH)
  • Joanne Read (Vice President of Planning and Support Services, TOH)
  • Tommy Wingreen (Coordinator, Horticultural Industries, Algonquin College)

5.2 Interest and Incentives

Ottawa is a vibrant community with many young farmers, researchers, and sustainability initiatives. As the Capital of Canada and a leader in health care and health research, the Ottawa Hospital has many incentives for the development of a productive hospital garden.

5.2.1 Patient impact

In July of 2016, mounting complaints led TOH CEO Jack Kitts and other TOH managers to try a diet solely consisting of hospital food for seven consecutive days. The results: a consensus that the hospital needs to revamp its patient menus. Starting an on-site garden would provide fresher, more nutritious ingredients to patient meals that would increase patient satisfaction and quality of care.

5.2.2 Facility Impact

TOH feeds 1000 patients daily and some 1 million visitors every year, spending approximately $6 million per year. Developing a food strategy could help offset costs of patient and cafeteria meals.


Figure 16: Potential site of the new Ottawa Hospital Civic Campus

5.2.3 Brand Impact

Investing in on-site food production shows the community that TOH has heard their concerns about food quality, and is responding to them. It would show TOH’s commitment to bettering the patient experience as well as making progressive efforts towards a more sustainable hospital.

5.3 Site Description

With a proposed new campus, and plans for a 50-60 acre site, there is a high potential for significant integration of food production, limited only by setting and soil characteristics of the final site selection. While the project is focused on designs for a potential future site (yet to be selected) for the Civic Campus, TOH is interested in a smaller pilot at their Riverside Campus, which has space for in-ground food production.

5.3.1 Competing land uses

Given that the proposed site for the new Civic campus is intended to serve the downtown core, there will almost certainly be competing uses for the land. The types of food production that will be possible on the site will be determined by existing uses, and the commitment of the hospital to integrating food production into the design of the Hospital of the 21st Century.


Figure 17: Future Benefits (source:

5.4 Description of the Proposed Project

The proposed project is part of the plan for a ‘Hospital of the 21st Century’ – a modern, sustainable, progressive campus in the heart of Ottawa with top-of-the line facilities and cutting edge research.

5.4.1 Purpose of gardens / production

The larger goal of the proposed project—initiated by the Health: Science, Technology and Policy students—is to design the model for an integrated, holistic food production and nutrition services department for Ottawa’s 21st Century hospital—a department that includes research, community engagement, outreach and innovation at every component of the chain:

  • Food production, on-site—in collaboration with Agriculture and Agri-food Canada (Experimental Farm), Algonquin College (horticulture department students), Lufa Farms (rooftop greenhouses)
  • Identifies, tests and develops a toolkit for food production systems, practices and minimum standards that meet food safety requirements and allow for sale directly to the institution
  • Food processing, on-site—in collaboration with Algonquin College (food service/hospitality students)
  • Identifies, tests and develops a toolkit for institutional food processing systems, practices and minimum standards that meet food safety requirements and allow for institutional use of food produced on-site
  • Fresh food utilization across hospital services, but concentrating primarily on increased patient satisfaction, nutrient uptake, etc.

This model was the basis of the call that attracted students to the project. The conversation that took place in the visioning session included an assessment of what was viable to take on at the initial stages.

5.4.2 Program model and governance

Over the course of the visioning session discussion, it was clear that, from the perspective of TOH, the goal of developing a state-of-the art hospital expansion should incorporate not just the hospital services but also partnerships to train health professionals. TOH sees this collaboration as an opportunity to integrate cutting-edge research into their practice, open or create an environment for more interdisciplinary research, and strengthen community engagement (through e.g. participatory research opportunities and direct involvement of volunteers). At this time they want to do some preliminary research to determine more precisely what will be done on the site.

5.4.3 Primary and secondary uses for food

In the short term, demonstration food gardens will serve therapeutic purposes for rehabilitation programs (e.g. spinal cord injury, head injury, stroke, amputations).  In the long term, expanded food production will serve to integrate food that is sustainably produced on-site into their food services (perhaps similar to the UHN). The hospital’s multiple campuses (including a major new facility in development) will provide several sites to utilize gardens for health promotion and therapy for patients, staff, volunteers, and community members.

5.4.4 Partners

The administration saw the potential to expand research partnerships with local universities and colleges, to include areas of interdisciplinary investigation that would (for example) capture the interactions of fresh food, food services and nutrition; or food production, green spaces, therapy and rehabilitation.

5.5 Moving Forward

The current student project will cover a review and assessment of existing models and what makes them work, a partnership plan of whom TOH would work with and how, and business risk management plans with a staged proposal of what the TOH can do with references to potential pitfalls and institutional policy barriers.

The students have selected models to review, prepared research instruments and an ethics application, and will soon meet with the key staff members, interview key informants outside of the TOH, and look at institutional and other relevant policies.